THISDAY REPORTER Dar es Salaam AFTER weeks of much dilly-dallying, the Presidential Parastatal Sector Reform Commission (PSRC) has at last issued a public statement on the controversial sale of a prime piece of government land in Dar es Salaam earlier this year for a ridiculously cheap price. In a statement released in the form of paid advertisements to several local newspapers this week (not THISDAY or KULIKONI), the PSRC defended its earlier decision of selling the property to a private developer for just 440m/- while its actual market value was 1.85bn/-. As already reported by THISDAY, the PSRC confirmed that the private developer, El-Hillal Minerals Limited, had now been told to pay an extra amount of money for the land, thus saving the government a whopping 1.41bn/-. ''The sale of the property was done in good faith on the basis of the expected benefits of the project,'' said PSRC spokesman Joseph Mapunda in the statement on behalf of PSRC executive chairman Ali Karavina. According to Mapunda, El-Hillal Minerals has now entered into a new contract with the government in which the company is to pay a total of 1.85bn/- for the prime property, situated on plot number 162/38 at the junction of Mirambo Street and Samora Avenue in the city?s central business district, before the end of this month. ''In addition to this, the company is required to submit architectural drawings and detailed plans of how it plans to develop the property. Failure to meet these conditions, the government will be forced to repossess the land,'' says part of the PSRC statement. However, Mapunda explained that the government had earlier decided to sell the plot for just 440m/- on the understanding that the private developer would allocate an entire floor (1,300 square metres) to the government rent-free for a period of five years once the building was commissioned. ''In the original proposal, the buyer was required to pay 440m/- from the actual value of the property, which is 1.85bn/-, so that the balance can be compensated by the five-year rent,'' he said. The PSRC claims that if the government is required to pay rent for the said office space in the proposed 12-storeyed building that El Hillal Minerals says it will erect, it would cost taxpayers a total of 2.2bn/- over five years. The PSRC statement also heaped praise on plans by El-Hillal Minerals to set up a ''world Diamond Trade Centre'' in the proposed building, saying such a move would boost government revenues from diamond sales in the country. According to Mapunda, small diamond miners in the country have traditionally been offered low prices because of the virtual monopoly enjoyed in the business by the South African De Beers company. ''In five consecutive years, the average price of our diamonds in the world market has been $84 per carat. In just one year after El-Hillal Minerals became a member of the World Diamond Trade Centre, the diamonds have fetched an average price of $212 per carat,'' he said. Stating that local miners have been kept in the dark regarding the actual price of diamonds, the PSRC spokesman applauded El-Hillal Minerals' move to liberalise the local diamond market. Investigations by THISDAY have long established that sometime last year, Prime Minister Edward Lowassa had an audience with El-Hillal Minerals proprietor Hillal Hamad Hillal, and afterwards directed the PSRC to ''assist'' Hillal as per existing laws and regulations after his previous attempts to buy the plot had come to nought. Our sources say both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Planning and Economic Empowerment (PSRC's parent ministry) were initially opposed to the sale of the plot to the private developer, on the grounds that the government should construct its own building to ease an acute shortage of office accommodation for government ministries and departments. Huu ni ubabaishaji au ufisadi? Kama mradi ulitarajiwa kuwa na manufaa kwa nchi wakati walipoiuza plot kwa bei dezo, nini kimebadilika leo hii kuwafanya warejee kwenye thamani halisi ya plot? Watu walisaini contract hii wanatakiwa kuwajibika otherwise wataendelea kutuingiza kwenye mikataba feki.