BoT squanders over 500m/- on `useless` Ballali photos THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam THE Bank of Tanzania (BoT)s extravagant spending of public funds during 2006/07 included the purchase of now-useless photographs of the then governor, Dr Daudi Ballali, for a staggering 551m/-, THISDAY can reveal today. According to the latest BoT audit report, the photographs purchased for more than half a billion shillings from a Canadian company were intended to adorn the BoT Twin Towers headquarters and other central bank offices in the country. The transaction was uncovered by auditors Ernst & Young while cross-checking expenses related to the Twin Towers project, whose ever-ballooning overall construction costs have already become a subject of much public curiosity and suspicion. The 2006/07 audit report prepared by Ernst & Young was handed over by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) to the BoTs board of directors last month. The CAG is the BoTs statutory auditor. It appears that the photos of Ballali, who was sacked from the BoT governorship by President Jakaya Kikwete early this year, were bought by the central bank from one Zahur Ramji of Mediapix International Limited based in Ontario, Canada, for a total of $432,096 (approx. 551m/-) in taxpayers money. The ex-governor, whose sacking was related to the discovery of the 133bn/- external payment arrears (EPA) account embezzlement scandal, is reported to have since died of an unspecified illness in the US capital of Washington DC in mid-May. According to the latest audit findings, the photos mostly feature images of Ballali with various other leaders and (BoT) members of staff. These pictures are intended for interior decoration of the (central bank) offices, board room, and regional branches, further notes the Ernst & Young report. But with the ex-governor now conclusively out of the picture, as it were, it is now unclear of what use the expensive murals will now be for the central bank. It is understood that the photographs totalled 70 in number, bought at a cost of between $3,967 (approx. 4.7m/-) and $9,878 (11.7m/-) per piece. Says the audit report: The pictures were all of the same size and quality�we found no visible difference between those which were purchased at $3,967 per piece and those purchased at $9,878 per piece. The auditors further assert that there was no evidence of the purported high quality framing specified on the purchase invoices to justify the extraordinary price tags. The pictures have a black plastic band, and the back of the pictures are devoid of hanging apparatus, and whose technology could be available locally, says the audit report. Furthermore, it is stated that a physical verification by the auditors uncovered that only 43 photographs bought from Mediapix International Ltd were actually in the BoTs possession by the time of the audit. The verification also found that the types of photographs specified in the invoices did not match the actual pictures supplied by the Canadian-based company. According to the audit report, the purchase of the photographs - done without a competitive tender process being properly advertised in local newspapers � was a violation of the Public Procurement Act of 2004. The transaction involved an international procurement for (a) significant amount without compliance to the requirements of the Public Procurement Regulations of 2005, which require competitive tendering for such procurements in order to obtain a competitive, qualitative and economic price, the report says in part. It continues: The contract was structured as a single source procurement on the justification that the services were available only from a particular supplier - Mr Zahur Ramji of Canada. We (auditors) found no justification that there is only one supplier of photographic murals in the world. The Bank (BoT) is at risk of overpriced or dummy procurements. Laxity in enforcing procurement, places the bank at risk from procurement fraud and consequently corruption and bad publicity, concludes the report on this specific query regarding the controversial Ballali photos. According to THISDAYs reliable sources, the new BoT management under incumbent governor Prof. Benno Ndulu has since instituted its own investigation into this particular deal. The (BoT) management has further written to enquire from Mediapix International Limited about the prices that were charged for the pictures, to establish if they were standard prices for the firms services and whether other customers have been charged similar rates. Based on the results of this inquiry, appropriate action will be taken, said a source. It is furthermore understood that Mediapix International Limited has already responded to the query by defending its prices as fair and appropriate.