2009-06-17 08:18:00 MP protests Sh35bn for top officials' trip By Damas Kanyabwoya, Dodoma THE CITIZEN An MP yesterday challenged the allocation of a whopping Sh34.6 billion in the 2009/10 Budget for domestic and foreign travel by government officials. Opposition MP Mohammed Munyaa, echoing recent public criticism of President Jakaya Kikwete's frequent visits overseas, accused the Government of giving priority to luxury, while neglecting important projects such as the development of power supply. Debating the Budget Speech in Parliament in Dodoma, Mr Mnyaa, who represents Mkanyageni constituency, said the money set aside for travel expenses was "too much for a poor country such as Tanzania, which is facing serious economic challenges". The CUF lawmaker added:"We've allocated this much for travel alone, while Tanesco cannot finance its power projects, and has warned that the country could be plunged into darkness any time. This is wasteful spending." He said it was a shame, considering that the Government had slashed the budget for the ministry of Energy and Minerals by 25 per cent, while Tanesco lacked the funds to carry out its Power System Master Plan projects. "The minister for Finance says the Budget has been reduced because contracts with some power generating companies have ended, but does that mean that our power woes have been solved? When you entered into the tainted power generation contracts you allocated so much money to the ministry. Now that the contracts have ended, suddenly the ministry is not a priority." President Jakaya Kikwete's trips abroad have sparked national debate, with critics, arguing that some of the visits were not beneficial to the country. However, State House has maintained that the President's visits abroad are meant to boost national interest, as they generate direct benefit in external support. The President's last trip abroad happened last month, during which he spent more than a week in the United States. During that visit, he became the first African Head of State to pay President Barack Obama a visit at the White House in Washington, DC. The two leaders discussed bilateral issues and matters affecting the East African region and Africa as a whole. President Kikwete's entourage comprised about 40 officials. In Parliament yesterday, MP Mnyaa making a pitch for the power sector, supported the decision to lend money to Artumas company to develop and supply electricity to Lindi and Mtwara, as outlined in the economic Stimulus Plan unveiled by President Kikwete on June 10. However, he said the Government should instead have acquired equity in the company. The MP also chided the Government for allegedly turning a blind eye to the exploitation of its forestry and livestock by people from neighbouring countries. "Who does not know that some companies from those countries buy tonnes and tonnes of logs from Mufindi, while Tanesco has to import electric poles from South Africa? What kind of privatisation is that?" he asked. Since debate on the Budget started on Monday, some ruling party MPs have used the opportunity to remind the Government to fulfil its promises in their constituencies or they are going to face a hard time in next year�s General Election. The MPs have accused the Government of neglecting development projects in their constituencies despite promises made during the campaigns for the last elections. Mr John Magale Shibuda (Maswa-CCM), Mr Suleiman Saddiq (Mvomero-CCM), Dr Mzeru Nibuka (Morogoro Urban-CM), Mr Elisa Mollel (Arumeru West-CCM) and Mr William Kusila (Bahi-CCM) yesterday accused the Government of unfair distribution of the national cake in the Budget. Mr Shibuda said ministers and other top government officials only gave priority to their home areas. "They tend to forget that most Tanzanians throughout the country voted overwhelming for CCM in the 2005 elections. Why hasn�t the Government allocated even a single cent to projects in my constituency? This is not fair." He said the Government complained about the people of Shinyanga being obsessed with superstition and witchcraft, but had not established more health centre in the region. Mr Saddiq, eying the budget of the ministry of Infrastructure Development, complained about failure to allocate funds for road construction in his constituency. "The Korogwe-Handeni-Kilosa-Turiani-Mvomero-Mikumi road is in the CCM manifesto of 2005, but this year�s Budget provided money for its tarmacking, except for the portion in my constituency. Why is this so? I want an explanation from the minister responsible," he said. Mr Kusila said the 25 per cent tax increase on imported wine was not enough to protect the growers and producers of grapes in his constituency. He urged the Government to further raise the tax to ensure that cheap wines from France and Italy do not kill the industry. The Government should also ensure the completion of the construction of the Great North Road from Arusha to Iringa, which passes through his constituency. Mr Mollel said some boreholes were sunk in his constituency, but the water was being pumped to villages in Monduli. He wondered why no village in Arumeru West had benefited despite the pipes passing through the area. "I have no problem with Monduli getting water, but why do we discriminate against people in the same region?" he asked. He also took the Government to task for allegedly failing to pay the salaries of the staff of Selian Hospital in his constituency despite its promise to do so when it entered into a contract with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Tanzania, which owns the hospital. Dr Nibuka challenged the Government to fulfil its pledge to make Morogoro Region the national basket. The MP for Kwamtipura, Mr Zubeir Ali Maulid, urged Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to expand its tax base to boost revenue. The CCM lawmaker accused TRA of failing to recover billions of shillings from the sale of Pre-Shipment Inspection stickers to importers at various overseas centres. "We did a small survey recently and discovered that TRA could not account for about Sh15 billion from the sale of PSI stickers to car importers. This is incomprehensible," he said.