Are assets declaration forms being doctored? -Minister says will investigate these latest allegations THISDAY REPORTER Dodoma A NUMBER of prominent politicians are alleged to have illegally altered their assets declaration forms at the Public Leaders Ethics Secretariat in a bid to cover their tracks after recently being linked to various corruption scandals. The allegations of tinkering with official government records were raised in the National Assembly this week by the Kigoma North Member of Parliament, Zitto Kabwe (CHADEMA). There are serious shortfalls in our (MPs) declarations of assets and liabilities, and I would like to call for a special investigation into this matter, said Zitto when debating the 2008/09 budget proposals of the Presidents Office (Good Governance). He called on the government to investigate shocking discrepancies in the assets declaration forms of some MPs being kept at the Bunge office in Dodoma, when compared with those at the Public Leaders Ethics Secretariat in Dar es Salaam. Under the Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act of 1995, lawmakers are required to declare their assets on a regular basis. Without mentioning any names, the CHADEMA legislator accused certain public leaders of tampering with their assets declaration forms after running into some trouble, apparently referring to recent corruption allegations against some senior politicians. There are some forms that were altered after certain problems emerged, therefore we should scrutinize all the assets declaration forms at the Speakers Office and compare them with those at the Ethics Secretariat, he told the august House. According to procedure, copies of MPs assets declaration forms are kept at the Bunge office in Dodoma, while another set of the same documents is sent to the Public Leaders Ethics Secretariat in Dar es Salaam. Public leaders specified by law, who commit fraud or misrepresent their assets in the declaration forms, may lose their positions in public office. However, the law also gives the Commissioner of the Public Leaders Ethics Secretariat controversial discretionary powers to decide at will whether or not to investigate incidents of fraud or deliberate failure to declare assets committed by public leaders. The Muleba South Member of Parliament, Wilson Masilingi, who was once Minister of State in the Presidents Office responsible for good governance, also urged the government to investigate the allegations of assets declaration form doctoring. Responding to the concerns raised, the current Minister of State in the Presidents Office (Good Governance), Ms Sophia Simba, told the House that the government would indeed investigate the allegations. Opposition leaders recently hit a brick wall at the Ethics Secretariat offices in the city, when they tried to peruse the assets disclosure forms of various public leaders including the former attorney general and senior Cabinet minister Andrew Chenge. According to a key confidentiality clause inserted in the Public Leadership Code of Ethics (Declaration of Interests, Assets and Liabilities) Regulations of 1996, any member of the public has the basic right to inspect assets declaration records of any public leader � but is then restricted from releasing to the public any information so obtained. The regulations describe the disclosure to the public of any particulars on the assets declaration forms as an illegal misuse of the information. This much-criticized limitation, otherwise known as a clawback clause, therefore makes it illegal for the public release of information on the assets disclosure records by the media or politicians, whether opposition or not. Apart from Chenge who was forced to resign from the ministerial cabinet after being linked to the 70bn/- military radar scandal, other individuals whose assets disclosure records were targeted by the opposition leaders included former president Benjamin Mkapa, former prime minister Edward Lowassa, ex-Bank of Tanzania governor Daudi Ballali, and Igunga Member of Parliament Rostam Aziz. The assets declaration forms of former cabinet ministers Nazir Karamagi and Basil Mramba, and Permanent Secretaries Gray Mgonja (Treasury) and Patrick Rutabanzibwa (Water, formerly Energy and Minerals) have also attracted opposition camp interest.