- Jan 16, 2007
Tanzanian 'fraud' draws foreign flak
Juma Kwayera | Nairobi
Juma Kwayera | Nairobi
Source: Mail & Guardian Online23 October 2007 12:41
A political storm over corruption allegations in Tanzania could compel President Jakaya Kikwete to sack Prime Minister Edward Lowassa -- and is already damaging the country's standing with international donors.
Tanzanian press reports in the past two months have linked Lowassa to a major financial fraud that precipitated 10 months of power-rationing last year.
Since July this year independent newspapers have run articles questioning Lowassa's integrity after he allegedly approved a deal in which a US-based firm, Richmond Development Company, was awarded a $115-million contract to supply power generators in 2005.
Instead, the company supplied second-hand jet engines that stalled barely three months after installation, leading to what is now referred to as "Richmondgate".
The allegations against Lowassa are contained in a report -- dubbed the "List of Shame" -- compiled by the political opposition, which points fingers at several other ministers whom the opposition wants sacked.
Lowassa distanced himself from the allegations last week through his press secretary, Said Nguba, who said: "The prime minister was never involved in the Richmond negotiations. All he did was to assume a general, overseeing role in government efforts to ensure the power-shortage problems afflicting the country at the time were urgently addressed."
ThisDay newspaper and the weekly, Kulikoni, said the perception of entrenched graft is exerting pressure on the president act decisively after development partners expressed concern. During the October 1 to 2 World Trade Organisation Africa regional conference in Dar es Salaam, German ambassador Ingo Herbert challenged the government to act, "as donors have become uncomfortable with the allegations". Herbert said: "The allegations of graft being levelled against some officials by opposition politicians are very serious; we would like the government to give its side of the story as soon as it possibly can."
Earlier this month the Dutch ambassador to Tanzania, Karel van Kesteren, also demanded "robust and credible" responses to corruption allegations.
"But it is not only the big corruption that bothers me; equally destructive for confidence in the country is corruption at lower levels, where the private interests of some influential individuals seem to carry more weight than the interests of the poor," said Van Kesteren. The head of the European Union mission in Tanzania, Peter Maddens, told reporters early this month that the EU was contemplating reviewing its national budget support to "track progress and performance across a range of issues, including public financial management at the government level".
"Freezing aid is not on our radar screen yet," he said. Kikwete defended his government in a national address this week, in which he accused the political opposition of "seeking [to gain] cheap political mileage."
"Even the PCCB [Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau] cannot pass judgement on suspects arrested on corruption allegations," Kikwete said. "There is no law of the jungle here. Ours is a country that treasures the principles of the rule of law and good governance. Let us not come to a situation where we will all become detectives, arresting officers, prosecutors and judges all rolled into one." The prospect of aid cutbacks elicited an angry response from Foreign Minister Bernard Membe who, several weeks ago, ordered foreign envoys to stop poking their noses into Tanzania's domestic affairs.
Meanwhile, four opposition parties -- Chadema, the Tanzania Labour Party (TLP), NCCR-Mageuzi and the Civic United Front -- announced this week that they would organise demonstrations to force the government to act against corruption.
TLP leader Augustine Mrema told a public rally in Dar es Salaam last week: "The president has not responded to our memorandum that contains a list of people perceived to be the kingpins of graft. We are now convinced that he has ignored pleas to address graft as a matter of national concern. We have resolved to organise countrywide civil disobedience to force the government to act."
In the memorandum, the opposition claims that the $340-million bill for constructing a new central bank headquarters is 10 times higher than the real cost. The bank is one of the projects the opposition says "stink of corruption". --