By SUNDAY NEWS Reporter, 1st January 2011 @ 22:00, Total Comments: 0, Hits: 109 FORMER ministers and other senior officials in the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources have been implicated in a financial scam involving massive embezzlement of funds belonging to the defunct Tanzania Fishing Corporation (Tafico). Tafico was a parastatal fishing company involved mainly in shrimp trawling. Until mid 1980s the company remained the sole exporter of prawns procured directly from villages or middlemen and private companies. An industrial source told the 'Sunday News' that senior ministry officials, the fishing companys directors (names withheld) and South African business persons who imported the prawns colluded in misappropriating the funds. This led to the collapse of Tafico. Japan was also one of the major importers of prawns after South Africa. TAFICOs annual income exceeded two billion shillings particularly when the fishing operations were at the peak. But the rate of cash flow did not last long as the earnings ended up in the pockets of a few greedy individuals. After the companys closure on May 30, 1999, all high profile officials were transferred to other fishing departments instead of being held accountable for milking the fishing company to death. One of the companys employees who worked in the finance department, who preferred anonymity, said that at one point some ministers who led the ministry at different times ordered to be given part of the earnings from fish exports without proper financial procedures. Half of the money obtained in each kilo of fish after exporting to either South Africa or Japan, was pocketed by officials from either the ministry or the fishing company. The little amount that remained was spent on running the company, the source said. The fishing operations were running at a heavy loss due to poor administration, poor maintenance of boats and low productivity. The operations of the boats were hampered by shortages of fuel and other necessities. There is no point in time that the company operated profitably. Since its establishment in 1974, it has been making losses and most times, the government provided subsidy to rescue it from total collapse, so it kept limping forward, the source said. In 1982, the ten trawlers which were in the companys original fleet experienced extensive mechanical and structural difficulties showing very low operational efficiency. Revenue from fish sales covered the local fleet operation costs, excluding major repairs. More than 20 medium and large trawlers were donated to Tafico at different times by Japan, Australia, UK, Finland and the Netherlands. Since half of the collected revenue ended up in the pockets of officials, there were no funds to undertake periodical trawler services. Consequently, the life span of the trawlers was less than five years before being parked and later sold as scrap metal. The Mama Tafico and Saadan were among famous largest trawlers with a capacity of 150 tonnes and 148 tonnes respectively. Mr Joachim Nyimbi who worked with Tafico for almost 25 years, said that at the time the fishing company failed to pay salaries of its employees operations were actually continuing, only that the collected revenue ended up in the pockets of a few officials. The situation at the fishing company got worse especially when we went without any pay for three to five months, said Mr Nyimbi. Fish prices soared as a result of shrinking catches. The large trawlers had a capacity to carry fish worth 450m/- at a time and every year each one managed to make between four and six fishing trips into the deep sea. The incidental catches were usually sold to ordinary people at the Tafico headquarters and at two shops in the city centre. As a result of the revenue thefts, the government was denied taxes. The workers eventually laid down the nets as the company was operating at continual losses. Mr Nyimbi said the fishing company was then listed among the defunct companies to be privatized. In 2008, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs announced a tender to dispose of the companys equipment. Some of the company possessions sold included cold storage equipment, 70KVA diesel generator set and steel trawler vessel GRT 150 tonnes. Other equipment include steel trawler vessel GRT 148.19 tonnes, steel double rigger trawler vessel GRT65 tonnes, FRP Purse-Seiner Vessel-GRT 10.72 tonnes, Skiff boats FRP-Small boats and a steel fuel tank and fuel pump.