Revealed: Mkapa was behind dubious TICTS deal -Mramba, Karamagi also closely involved THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam FORMER president Benjamin Mkapa personally ordered the dubious extension of the Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) contract by a staggering 15 years just a month before the end of his second and final term in office in 2005, THISDAY can reveal today. Investigations by THISDAY have established that in September 2005, Mkapa instructed the then Ministry of Communications and Transport to extend the contract of the private operator leasing operations of the container terminal at the Dar es Salaam port from the initial 10 years to 25 years. At the time the contract extension was ordered by the then president, the privately-owned TICTS was in only the fifth year of the original 10-year contract signed in September 2000. However, halfway before the contract officially expired, ex-president Mkapa ordered that the company be given a 15-year extension, thus increasing the contract duration to 25 years. This means that TICTS was granted exclusive rights by the former president to lease operations at the Dar es Salaam port's container terminal until the year 2020. Apart from authorising the contract extension, Mkapa also ordered authorities to allow TICTS to use Berth number 8 and its adjacent land at the port. Furthermore, the former president also granted the private company access to the Ubungo container depot to store excess containers that cannot be accommodated at the port due to constraints of storage space. THISDAY has further learnt that the then Minister for Finance, Basil Mramba, instructed relevant government authorities to implement Mkapa's directives with immediate effect in 2005. The former president's instructions were formally communicated by Mramba to several senior government officials, including the then Minister for Communications and Transport, Prof. Mark Mwandosya; the Commissioner General of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Harry Kitillya; and the Treasury Permanent Secretary, Gray Mgonja. Various government officials who spoke to THISDAY on condition of not being named described the contract extension given to TICTS as ''illegal.'' ''This was completely against the law and contrary to the government's own regulations and procedures. Under normal circumstances, a contract cannot be extended until the initial period of the duration of the contract is concluded,'' said one informed government source. According to the source, prior to extending the contract, a thorough assessment should have been made of TICTS' performance, and a ''transparent and competitive'' public tender process should have been followed by inviting private companies to bid for the contract. A number of powerful politicians, including the former Minister for Energy and Minerals, Nazir Karamagi, who resigned last week over the Richmond corruption scandal, are reported to be among shareholders in TICTS. The dubious contract extension was made while TICTS was under heavy criticism for poor performance, causing a massive congestion of containerised cargo at the Dar es Salaam port. The private company has also been criticised for failing to make any significant investment in equipment to improve the port's infrastructure and boost efficiency. Members of parliament have frequently demanded answers from the government on how the TICTS contract was extended under such questionable circumstances. They include Anne Kilango Malecela (Same East-CCM), a member of the parliamentary infrastructure committee, who has been particularly vocal about the dubious contract extension. An outrage over the controversial contract extension was re-ignited in parliament only last week when MPs demanded some serious answers from the government. The Minister for Infrastructure Development, Andrew Chenge, was obliged to assure lawmakers that the government would review the TICTS contract. Both the Tanzania Shipping Agents Association (TASAA) and the Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (TAFFA) have recently heaped blame on TICTS for inefficient operations at the Dar es Salaam port, said to be driving business to Mombasa and elsewhere in the region. According to TASAA and TAFFA, TICTS has not invested enough in infrastructure like gantry cranes and trucks to offload containers from ships and carry them to Berth 8 at the port and the Ubungo Inland Container Depot. TICTS has, however, vehemently dismissed the allegations, saying it has indeed invested heavily in the said infrastructure but the problem is an unexpected surge in the number of containers being handled by the port, from 250,000 to over 350,000 containers last year alone. The TASAA Chairman, Emmanuel Mallya, told THISDAY recently that about 50 per cent of ships have reduced their number of calls to Dar es Salaam because of the port's inefficiency.