By Karl Lyimo ONE OF THE LEAD STORIES in The EastAfrican in the past three months was about gross irregularities in procurement contracts by institutions under the Tanzania Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism and two foreign public firms. According to the Controller and Auditor-General, the procurement of advertising services from the US-based Cable News Network (CNN) and Jambo Publications of London did not follow statutory procedures. For instance, two CNN contracts, totalling $1.55 million did not only fail to comply with procurement procedures but they also fell short of pertinent details -- such as the timing, duration, length, frequency and monitoring methodologies of the broadcasts contracted for. The Jambo contracts, worth $272,000 over six months, also left much to be desired. Basic details were scanty - with vital documents unavailable for auditing. Suffice it here to cite the auditor's remark that "there was no value for money" in the transactions. In "Canadian firm pulls out of $5 million TTCL contract" (The EastAfrican, July 6-12), it was reported that SaskTel prematurely opted out of the 3-year, deal. THE REASON FOR WITHDRAWING must surely be rooted in a fundamentally-flawed original contract. Reputable firms that fight tooth-and-nail and win lucrative deals abroad do not give up simply out of homesickness or charity. Indeed, there have been other reports after those two -- and more should continue to be published with the passage of time. The general consensus is it is easier to find a needle in a haystack than unearth a bona fide, sleaze-free public contract in Tanzania. The architect of Tanzanian nationalism the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, succinctly painted a picture of the negative effects of graft in the country -- comparing it with Kenya and India. Corrupt officials in the latter two cream their 10 per cent off the top of the value but also ensure the project is completed as per contract. Not so in Tanzania, Mwalimu lamented, where the officials take their cut -- and head for the hills. In the event, the job is not completed, or is shoddily wound up by the contractors in efforts to salvage their costs and profits. That is bad enough. Worse and inexcusable is that not a single principal official in the development-planning and decision-making stakes regarding public procurement has ever been successfully brought to account for his or her misdeeds. Not only has justice not been seen to be done; it has never been done at all. While clerks and other junior officials are routinely arraigned in court when caught with their hands in the till, top decision-making officials who are the principals behind such corrupt contracts are untouchable beyond belief. Hence all those dubious deals in public procurement -- ranging from power purchase agreements to infrastructural development -- as well as deals in privatisation and investments in such lucrative sectors as mining and other natural resources. The rot is routinely exposed by CAG, Parliament and other probe commissions -- and just as routinely swept under the rug by the government. No wonder the Tanzania economy is being systemically ravaged by such dubious public deals. Karl Lyimo is a freelance journalist based in Dar.