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Feb 11, 2007
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Ukonga prison cells being prepared for `VIP` guests?

-Anticipated influx of high-profile prisoners charged with grand corruption

THISDAY REPORTER
Dar es Salaam

MAJOR renovations are underway on at least 15 cells in the notorious Ukonga maximum security prison on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam amid reports that the special holding rooms may be used to accommodate high-profile individuals expected to be prosecuted soon on grand corruption charges.

According to informed sources, the apparent preparations at the prison facility are being done at a crisp pace in anticipation of an influx of so-called -’VIP’ prisoners.

Other sources have also confirmed that the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) has lined up five major corruption cases for prosecution in the near future against prominent politicians and former senior government officials.

At the same time, the high-level investigation into the external payment arrears (EPA) embezzlement scandal at the Bank of Tanzania is also expected to result in the prosecution of several local business tycoons and other prominent individuals.

The sources say the special prison cells being prepared at Ukonga are self-contained with their own toilet facilities, beds with mosquito nets, and windows. The ongoing refurbishment work includes plumbing, sewerage, and window installations.

It is understood that prior to the renovations, the prison cells were in appalling condition, many of them with flooded latrines

Ukonga prison holds more than 3,000 inmates.

When contacted by THISDAY, the Principal Commissioner of Prisons, Augustino Nanyaro, described the renovation work at Ukonga as part of overall rehabilitation of prison facilities across the country, which are notorious for their harsh conditions.

He dismissed suggestions that the government is building new, VIP-standard prisons or renovating existing facilities for ’special’ inmates.

’’That’s just a theory...the conditions of our prisons are still bad and we’re still grappling with a poor prison diet,’’ Nanyaro said.

He added: ’’I don’t know where you got these reports of VIP prisons, since we’ve already hosted (Democratic Party leader Christopher) Mtikila and (CUF chairman Prof. Ibrahim) Lipumba at our facilities.’’

But despite this denial from the prisons chief, various other government sources have confirmed a link between the ongoing renovation work at Ukonga prison and the looming prosecution of prominent corruption suspects.

’’In fact, the repair work has been speeded up, possibly because of the expected arrival of VIP prisoners at the Ukonga prison soon,’’ said one source.

Apart from the pending indictments related to the EPA scandal, the PCCB is understood to have already been given consent by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to proceed with the prosecution of several other grand corruption cases involving politicians and retired senior public officials.

The PCCB Director-General, Dr Edward Hoseah, is on record as saying the government’s corruption watchdog has concluded investigations on at least five cases of grand corruption.

Major graft investigations that the Bureau is understood to have been conducting include dubious tax exemptions extended to the Alex Stewart Assayers gold auditing company, the Buzwagi mineral development agreement, the radar purchase, and the related TANGOLD/Meremeta and Deep Green Finance deals.
 

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