Refund cash to new clients, Deci ordered By Mkinga Mkinga and Florence Mugarula THE CITIZEN The troubled Development Entrepreneurship for Community Initiative (Deci) should be ordered to immediately refund the money collected from new members who have not received any returns on their "investments", a group of experts says. The team comprising financial and legal professionals made the recommendation in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday, during a meeting convened to review a report presented by the task force that investigated Deci and found that it was running a pyramid scheme. But contacted for comment yesterday, Deci's executive director, Mr T.S. Ole Loiting'ye, told The Citizen by telephone that his company would immediately pay back the money if the authorities had issued the directive. However, Mr Loiting'ye said they had not received any official communication from the task force investigating their operations. "I am hearing this for the first time from you. I know nothing about the order that we should refund the cash to members who have not harvested their seeds. We have not received any official communication but are ready to pay because we have the money," he added. According to the task force's findings, the firm will have to refund about Sh6 billion to the members who have "planted" but have not "harvested". Representatives from the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), the Capital Market and Securities Authorities (CMSA), Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), the Police Force, and the state intelligence unit attended Wednesday's meeting. Sources, who attended the closed-door meeting convened by the central bank, said it had been agreed that Deci be asked to refund money to the new members. However, the BoT said it would not implement the directive, throwing the ball back to the investigating team. "We have agreed that Deci should give back the money to its customers who have not harvested a single cent from their 'seeds'," the source said. Deci claims that it operates a revolving fund in which people "plant seeds" (deposits) and "harvest" on maturity some weeks later. The "planted seeds" are said to attract 300 per cent interest on maturity, but experts have warned that such a scheme cannot be sustained. Though Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda told a group of print and electronic media editors at a meeting in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday that Deci had been found to have only Sh1.8 billion in its bank account, the company's officials have disputed that figure. Our source at the experts' meeting said the Deci managers had revealed that they had more than Sh11 billion out of more than Sh54 billion "planted" by their members. At his meeting, Mr Pinda said Deci's illegal operations could not be sustained as its more than 430,000 members would be expecting to "harvest" a total of Sh13.7 billion and yet the company had only Sh1.8 billion. Asked to comment on reports that his office had been asked to close down Deci's operations, the Director for Criminal Investigation (DCI), Mr Robert Manumba, said: "That responsibility rests on the team that conducted the investigations." He added: "We've agreed that the task force should handle all the issues concerning Deci. So, please, check with them as they have the full information." For his part, the Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs, Mr Omar Yusuf Mzee, declined to comment further, only saying that the BoT had "already given a professional opinion on Deci's operations". Meanwhile, for the second day running, Deci offices in Dar es Salaam and around country remained closed yesterday, with the members being officially notified that the company's operations had been suspended "until we resolve the misunderstandings with the authorities". Addressing members under tight police surveillance at the company's headquarters at Mabibo Mwisho in Dar es Salaam, an official, who declined to reveal his name, urged the members "to remain calm as the company continues to sort out the issue with the authorities". He said the members would be notified once the problems were resolved, assuring them that those "whose deposits have matured will continue to harvest as usual". He added: "We will inform you through Praise Power and Wapo Radio stations. Disregard any other information." The official said the first priority to "harvest" would be given to the new members, "including those of you joined the company only last month, as you have not received anything". Some of the members accused the government of being behind the problems facing Deci. A man identified only as Joshua saw a conspiracy "so that banks and other financial institutions can continue to exploit poor people". Field Force Unit (FFU) personnel continued to patrol the area around the Deci headquarters in a bid to avert in any trouble. Ms Asha Abdallah, a member of Deci, said: "The matter has been taken out of proportions as the Deci managers meant no harm." Deci reportedly pays its members up to 300 per cent interest on deposits maturing after three or six months or a year. Deci's operations were thrown into disarray following Prime Minister Pinda's remarks on Tuesday that the company was carrying out an illegal business. But in response, Deci officials accused the government of snubbing their pleas to meet and discuss the operations the company has carried out for two years. Executive director Ole Loiting'ye said the company had lost Sh5 billion in three weeks due to the negative publicity.