Zitto team moves to secure Sh19bn By Florence Mugarula and Frank Kimboy The Citizen Reporters Dar es Salaam. A parliamentary committee yesterday reversed a government decision, which the members said denied the country a chance to earn over Sh18 billion in tourist concession fees yearly.The Zitto Kabwe-led Public Corporations Accounts Committee (POAC) accused the immediate former Tourism and Natural Resources minister, Ms Shamsa Mwangunga, of unilaterally imposing lower rates than what had been proposed by the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa). The committee also directed Tanapa to also cancel two insurance cover tenders worth Sh2.5 billion yearly, and float them afresh, in response to corruption allegations. Committee chairman Kabwe, who is the Kigoma North MP, said they had directed the parks authority to immediately raise the concession fees from between $5 and $15 to $20 and $50 per tourist, which had earlier been approved by the board of trustees. The move could, however, bring the authority into conflict with hotel operators, whose spokesperson, Mr Damas Mfugale, yesterday expressed surprise at the move by the parliamentary committee. We took about two years to negotiate these rates through consultations involving lawyers and auditors from both sides, as required under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) Act, said Mr Mfugale, the chairman of the Hotel Association of Tanzania (HAT). Mr Mfugale, a director of Peacock Hotels, said their association expected Tanapa to involve them in any decision to review the rates approved by the government last year. He said hotel owners would declare their stand after receiving the official communication on the matter. The POAC directive was issued during a meeting with top Tanapa officials, including the board of trustees chairman, Mr Modestus Lilungu, and the director general Mr Alan Kijazi. Mr Kijazi and a board member, Dr Marcellina Chijoriga, who heads the University of Dar es Salaam Business School, told the committee that their recommendations were overturned by the minister following complaints from HAT. Actually, we were disappointed and it was a shame for all of us after being challenged by the minister. It is obvious that the Tanapa board of trustees has legal powers to make decisions for the betterment of the organisation and in the national interest, said Dr Chijoriga. Mr Kijazi said had the proposal been endorsed, Tanapa would be generating about Sh21 billion in revenue annually, an increment of about Sh18.6 billion. The current revenue is between Sh1.5 billion and Sh2.4 billion. He said they had sought unsuccessfully a hearing from the minister, who asked them to hold talks with HAT. Mr Kabwe said the committee was upset about the ministers conduct at a time when the country was struggling to raise its domestic revenue. We are now revoking the order because we have the mandate to do so and we are hereby directing Tanapa to review the rates upwards, said the POAC chairman. Ms Mwangunga could not be reached for comment. However, the decision to reject the Tanapa proposals, Mr Kijazi said, was communicated in an official letter by the ministrys permanent secretary. Mr Kabwe said POAC would meet the new minister in April, when Bunge resumes to seek his explanation. If the minister refuses to approve the new rates we will demand a dissolution of the Tanapa board as there would be no need to have it if its decisions cannot not be honoured, he said. The POAC deputy chairman, Mr Deo Filikunjombe, said the loss of an average of Sh20 billion was unacceptable. On the insurance cover tenders, the committee said a new firm should be sought to implement the two schemes. The order came after the MPs raised eyebrows on award of the tender to run Tanapas Group Endowment fund and the group life assurance. The MPs said they would like to see a competitive process that would allow more firms, including parastatals, to compete. Sources within the committee said the members were concerned about reports that millions of shillings might have been lost through the schemes. However, they added, the books had not been audited by a competent authority, as required by the law, to establish the exact loss. Commenting on its performance, Mr Lilungu said the organisation was paying high taxes to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA). We are charging low amounts of money to tourists and investors compared to the running costs and yet the TRA is collecting a lot from us, he added. Dr Chichoriga, who is also the TRA board chairperson, said there was a need for the government to review Tanapas Act to enable the organisation to operate at a profit.