- Feb 11, 2007
|Of stolen dollars and ping-pong|
|Sunday, 09 December 2012 09:59|
By Morice Maunya
The Citizen Correspondent
Dar es Salaam.
As the world observes the UN Anti-Corruption Day today, Tanzania is entangled in a seemingly intractable debate on how the country might recover millions, if not billions of dollars, allegedly siphoned out over the years and stacked away in foreign banks. As much as Sh300 billion belonging to high-level former and present politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen is said to be hidden in Swiss banks alone, while other undisclosed quantities are reportedly secretly held elsewhere abroad.
An alarmed Parliament recently passed a unanimous motion calling on government to investigate the allegations, with a view to identifying and reclaiming the billions, largely believed to be looted through international contract kick-backs and other corrupt practices.
But as matters stand so far, there seems to be game of Ping-Pong going on, and apparently little political will on the side of the authorities to get to the bottom of the racket bin.
Parliament is still awaiting an official response from the government on how it intends to deal with the politically-sensitive matter, but a senior minister responsible for good governance has thrown the ball back to the public, saying any Tanzanian with information regarding the true nature of the allegations and especially those responsible, and the amounts involved should volunteer the information to facilitate action by the authorities.
Many are thus left to wonder: if the government machinery is unable to identify those responsible, and the amount of funds involved, to be able to take action, how on earth can an ordinary Tom and Dick figure out those behind such secretive corruption and theft schemes?
Isnt the government there because it is just that: governmentreplete with all the apparatus needed to accomplish the most complex tasks?
Is it not a mere diversionary tactic, therefore, to throw the matter to the public arena, while simple common sense suggests the authorities should know much better how to deal with allegations of dirty deals?
Or is it simply convenient for them to not thoroughly investigate the matter? And, at whose expense?
Those most affected by these grandiose theft and corruption schemes, involving massive public funds and other resources, are obviously the common man and woman, to whom such heinous acts mean less medicine, little salaries, shanty dwellings, deteriorating standards of educationand widening poverty in general.
Any government to whom public wellbeing comes first which the CCM-led administration claims to be cannot take allegations of extensive siphoning off of public resources, or grandiose corruptions schemes, lightly.
In the country recently, former South African President Thabo Mbeki brought to the fore once again the issue of billions of dollars stolen from the African continent, and hidden in safe havens in foreign banks, including in Switzerland.
But Mr Mbeki simply touched on a common intractable malaise afflicting the continent. This seemingly never-ending malady is thought to have contributed, to an enormous extent, the widespread poverty in which the majority of African people are still condemned to wallow in.
In Tanzania, the level of human development is hardly commensurate with economic strides since the country abolished its centrally-controlled economic system and embarked on free market principles.
For most of the past decades, macro-economic indicators have registered growth, but at the same time, levels of poverty among the majority poor have increased to alarming proportions.
Corruption is endemic at all levels: in the public social services sector delivery systems, within the government machinery, and even in the private sector. Much of on-going efforts spearheaded by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), the governments corruption watchdog, are yet to create a serious dent in the vice.
This sad state of affairs is made worse with loopholes in high-level contracts that allow senior bureaucrats, politicians and businesspeople the elites who are supposed to guide the down-trodden to cut deals amounting to billions of shillings in well-calculated shady deals.
Last year, Transparency Internationals (TI) global corruption perception index showed that Tanzania scored three points on a scale of maximum ten points, with zero indicating highly corrupt, and ten very clean countries.
In its report, Transparency International noted: The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories according to their perceived levels of public sector corruption. It is an aggregate indicator that combines different sources of information about corruption, making it possible to compare countries.
The 2011 index draws on assessments and opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions. These surveys and assessments include questions related to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds, and the effectiveness of public sector anti-corruption efforts. Perceptions are used because corruption is to a great extent a hidden activity that is difficult to measure. Over time, perceptions have proved to be a reliable estimate of corruption.
As the TI report noted, corruption and economic impunity lead to public frustration, hence creating the basis for chaos or political instability sooner or later. Ready examples are protests that have taken place in North Africa and the Middle East (the so-called Arab Spring), which are largely attributed to demands for good governance, including better management of economic resources.
In his message to mark world Anti-Corruption Day on December 9 last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon cautioned on the dangers lying ahead if the nagging problem of corruption is not addressed timely. He said: Corruption afflicts all countries, undermining social progress and breeding inequality and injustice.
When desperately needed development funds are stolen by corrupt individuals and institutions, poor and vulnerable people are robbed of education, health care and other essential services.
Although the poor may be marginalized by corruption, they will not be silenced. In events across the Arab world and beyond this year, ordinary people have joined their voices in denouncing corruption and demanding that governments combat this crime against democracy. Their protests have triggered changes on the international scene that could barely have been imagined just months previously.
Tanzania, which is party to both the UN and African Union conventions against corruption, needs to step up the fight against the vice. Having no mercy with those who have stolen billions of shillings and stacked them in foreign banks is one way of showing that the government is determined and serious in fighting graft.