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Sitta defends House `don`t touch` order

Discussion in 'Habari na Hoja mchanganyiko' started by Ngongo, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. Ngongo

    Ngongo JF-Expert Member

    Feb 19, 2009
    Joined: Sep 20, 2008
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    National Assembly Speaker Samuel Sitta yesterday stood by his recent barring of legislators from discussing sensitive issues still being investigated.

    The issues include reports that Home Affairs minister Lawrence Masha improperly interfered with the tendering process in respect of the multi-billion-shilling National Identity Cards project and the controversial purchase of civilian and military air traffic control (radar) equipment from the UK.

    The Speaker dwelt mainly on the furor over the ID project, saying allowing the issue to be brought up for debate in the House as demanded by some legislators could have caused needless delays in proceedings as well as several other avoidable inconveniencies.

    ``The delays, such as would have related to the ID project tendering process, would have caused the nation huge losses,`` he explained, noting that safeguarding national interests was always his main concern.

    He was being interviewed by The Guardian on the sidelines of the official launch of CHAMPION project, an initiative aimed at addressing harmful gender norms fuelling HIV/Aids infections.

    ``The decision to put the matter on hold was based on the fact that the issue of national identity cards was highly sensitive. What`s more, at the material time (when the National Assembly was in routine session in Dodoma earlier this month), the matter was being discussed by the House Defence, Security and Foreign Affairs Committee,`` he pointed out.

    Sitta further stated that he arrived at the decision to put the discussions on hold on the advice of the committee chairman Wilson Masilingi, ``who said that was the right step to take to ensure a smooth flow of the tendering process since any move that would delay the process would have made the nation incur huge losses``.

    ``My decision had completely nothing to do with making attempts to defending the minister (Masha). I just bought parliamentary committee chairman Masilingi`s argument that the whole thing was too small to deserve emergency discussion,`` elaborated the Speaker.

    He said Masilingi`s opinion was that allowing legislators to discuss the issue would have meant putting on hold the tendering process, ``when the work had reached an advanced stage``.

    Sitta also specifically responded to accusations by the opposition Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema) on Sunday that he barred the discussion merely to protect a beleaguered minister Masha.

    He said that, even if he had not received Masilingi`s advice, the 12 days which the National Assembly was left with was too short a period to have accommodated debate on the raging controversy over the ID project tendering process.

    He added: ``Every business (discussion) in the House is conducted in line with a laid-down timeframe. The 12 days left were definitely too few to allow for meaningful discussions but, impartial as I am supposed to be throughout, I could not just allow anything to be discussed because I am under obligation to put national interests before any others.``

    In a more conciliatory note apparently meant to appease those who found his decision unfair or improper, the Speaker said there was still the possibility of the issue
    being discussed in forthcoming House sessions ``and there is no need to concentrate too much on Chadema`s baseless claims that I shielded minister Masha``.

    Chadema Information and Publicity director Erasto Tumbo told journalists on Sunday that Speaker Sitta was protecting the minister, for whose immediate resignation they called ``or we will take up the matter with wananchi``.

    However, a defiant Masha said he would not resign and challenged people accusing him of interfering with the ID project tendering process to bring forward evidence of his alleged wrongdoing.

    A section of local media reported recently allegations that Masha interfered with the process of obtaining a company to implement the project, contrary to the rules and regulations governing public sector tendering procedures.

    Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda confirmed in the National Assembly that the minister had sent him a letter complaining about being interfered with by Chief Secretary Philemon Luhanjo in connection with the tendering process.

    But authoritative sources say it is in fact the minister who interfered with the process after indications that Sagem Securite, the firm he deemed most appropriate for the job, was likely to lose the tender.

    On Sunday, the Home Affairs ministry announced six companies to meet in the final round that will see the emergence of the bidder to execute the project. Sagem Securite does not appear on the list.

    Tanzanian and UK`s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) agents are meanwhile understood to have been working on claims that former Attorney General and Infrastructure Development minister Andrew Chenge and a number of other senior officials and businesspersons received bribes in connection with the purchase of the civilian and military equipment.

    Chenge resigned from President Jakaya Kikwete`s cabinet in April last year after preliminary investigations by SFO agents linked him to illegal payments related to the scam, part of the amount having reportedly been deposited in an overseas bank account.

    SOURCE: Guardian