2009-12-02 09:34:00 By Mkinga Mkinga and Beatus Kagashe THE CITIZEN Tanzania is sending one of the largest delegations to the Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change this week despite growing concern that the country is spending billions of shillings on foreign trips annually at the expense of providing critical public services. Reports indicate between 60 and 95 people, most of them government officials, will represent the country at the conference, which opens on Friday, in the Danish capital, with the colossal spending already drawing criticism from various quarters at home. The delegation will be the second largest from Africa, after Nigeria, which is sending some 125 people to the crucial meeting on global change. With an average annual per capita income of $440 (Sh572,000), Tanzania, with a population of over 35 million, is much poorer than oil-rich Nigeria, whose 150 million people have an annual per capita income of $1,160 (Sh1.5million). China, with over 1.3 billion people, the largest population in the world, and whose rapidly growing industrialisation has attracted one of the hottest debates on the carbon emissions largely to blame for global warming, is expected to send a delegation of only 25 to 30 officials. Contacted for comment in Dar es Salaam yesterday, the minister for State in the Vice-President?s Office, responsible for the environment, Dr Batilda Burian, could not confirm the final tally of the government?s delegation to the meeting in Denmark. However, Dr Burian said that not all those who had expressed interest in traveling to Copenhagen would make it. She said some officials have not got visas or sponsorship for various departments or agencies. The minister, who will be in the delegation, said either President Jakaya Kikwete or Vice-President Ali Mohammed Shein would lead the Tanzanian team to the meeting to run from December 7 to 18. President Kikwete has been out of the country since November 22, during which he has visited Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and is currently in Cuba. He is expected back at the end of the week. The Citizen established yesterday that at least 60 people had applied for Schengen visas at the Swedish embassy in Dar es Salaam. The number was likely to increase, as there was still enough time to beat the application deadline. The ccounsellor for Political Affairs and Trade at the embassy, Mr Andreas Ershammar, said 30 people had already collected their visas. He said 10 of the applicants were from NGOs and the media. Mr Ershammar said some applicants had been given time to file sufficient documents before being issued with visas. Top government functionaries and other public officials have often been accused of using foreign trips to line their pockets with hefty allowances that sometimes easily triple their monthly salaries. A recent report by Policy Forum, a non-governmental organisation based in Dar es Salaam, said the foreign trips had become quite lucrative for public officials, with each earning between Sh403,000 and Sh546,000 daily while overseas. According to the report, the Office of the President and Cabinet Secretariat is the highest recipient of funds for allowances and will gobble up Sh148.7 billion in payments this financial year alone. The National Assembly is second with MPs and staff earning a total of Sh36.8 billion in allowances this year. Their vote rose by 40 per cent over the Sh26.3 billion allocated the previous year. Among those on record, as protesting the wanton waste in endless trips, seminars, and workshops is Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, but the gravy train continues. Tanzania's delegation to the recent annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank outstripped those of the four other EAC countries combined. Whereas Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya sent a total of 26 people, with delegations of five to seven people, Tanzania had 25 representatives. The trip is estimated to have cost the taxpayer Sh173 million, assuming a mid-level allowance and travel on discounted business class. But experience has shown that the government's representatives often travel first class. During this year's International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Tanzania sent 40 people while South Africa and Kenya, which have stronger economies, had 26 and 35, respectively. Yesterday, critics said the country should send a lean team with a concrete report for presentation. The director of the Institute for Resource Assessment (IRA) of the University of Dar es Salaam, Prof Pius Yanda, said academics had been involved in preparing the country report. "We are leaving today for the meeting but I don't know how many Tanzanians will participate. We have a report we will present as a country," said Prof Yanda. Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa) secretary general Annanilea Nkya said it was a waste of public resources to send such a big team to one meeting, adding it could only be motivated by the generous allowances. "What is important is to have an appropriate agenda and not many people at the forum,"she said. The executive secretary of Agenda Participation 2000, an anti-corruption NGO, Mr Moses Kulaba, said the big delegation may not deliver coherently. He said the government could not justify sending such a large number. "We should have selected a few experts to represent the country while the rest remain working at home," said Mr Kulaba. He said it was also interesting that the government had only on Monday launched its five-year climate change impact programme to reduce carbon emissions. Journalists Environment Association (JET) chairman Deodatus Mfugale also criticised the big delegation, saying it was not necessary, as a country report had been adopted. "With such a number I wonder why the government did not sponsor a single journalist to attend the conference, he posed, adding that volunteers sponsored six reporters to cover the important meeting.