Donors act against corrupt practices in Tanzania
Development partners from six countries have expressed their concern over the utilisation of financial support by the government of Tanzania.
The donor countries - Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, Japan and Germany - which had collectively contributed about US$560 million (TSh900 billion) to the Tanzanian government's 2013/2014 General Budget, met in Dar es Salaam, late in November 2013, to discuss various issues concerning the donation, the utilisation of foreign aid and general development programmes in the country. Finland will be chairing forthcoming meetings for the donors during 2014.
Fighting corruption, but too slowly
The issues, which donors strongly reacted against, included the slow pace of dealing with corruption issues. The consensus amongst this donor community is that the government of Tanzania has not shown strong enough commitment to dealing with the problem. There is concern that the country has been failing to capitalise on the achievements it has made in recent years.
Speaking on behalf of other donors, Swedish Ambassador to Tanzania Mr Lennarth Hjelmaker observed that the war against corruption has been slowing down annually in recent times. Mr Hjelmaker added that there had been no serious movement on corruption cases affecting key sectors such as health, logistics and energy.
In particular, he expressed alarm at corruption affecting work at the port in Dar es Salaam, which is a main source of the country’s economic growth.
“The lack of movement on specific anti-corruption cases in key sectors like health, the port and energy is worrying,” he said. “We strongly encourage the government to intensify the war on corruption.”
High profile cases that have been debated and discussed include allegations of corruption against Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) directors, and the Tanzania Electricity Supply Company (Tanesco). There are also ongoing cases involving permanent secretaries of the country's Ministry of Health and Ministry of Energy and Minerals. Mr Hjelmaker noted that an investigation into the TPA and Tanesco cases has been completed by Tanzania's Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), but that suspects have not been brought before the court. He also challenged the government to demonstrate further commitment to addressing human rights issues - questioning, particularly, the government’s commitment with respect to the protection and promotion of the freedom of information and expression.
What has been seen to suppress freedom of expression in Tanzania
Recently, there have been many incidents threatening the freedom of press and the security of journalists in Tanzania.
One notable example is the killing, in September 2012, of TV journalist Mr Daudi Mwangosi, who was struck by a gas canister as police dispersed a crowd at a rally staged by an opposition political party. The Channel Ten reporter was killed while covering the opening of a branch office of the Chadema cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Party for Democracy and Progress) at Nyololo village in Iringa region (In the Southern Highlands of Tanzania).
In another case, a national newspaper called MwanaHalisi was suspended indefinitely by the government in early July 2013 after it reported the abduction and beating of Dr Stephen Ulimboka, the leading spokesman for the nation's doctors, who have been engaged in an on/off strike over pay and conditions for six months.
Then, in March 2013 the Chairman of Tanzania Editors’ Forum (TEF) and Managing Editor of New Habari (2006) Corporation, Mr Absalom Kibanda (47), was attacked and seriously injured a few metres from his home. He was pulled out of his car, near the gate of his house, and beaten up. He was flown to South Africa for treatment. Neither the police nor the government have conducted an arrest or released a tangible report on the attack.
And, most recently, in September 2013 the Tanzanian government imposed publication bans of 14 and 90 days on Mwananchi and Mtanzania newspapers, respectively. According to the Tanzanian government's Director of Information, Mr Assah Mwambene, the main reason behind the ban was the tendency by the newspapers to publish stories and photographs that were intended to provoke hostility amongst the public, against the State and its defence and security organs.
Following the ban, in November 2013 the government's Attorney General tabled a bill in parliament that aimed at scrutinising media freedom in the country. However, the bill was rejected by Members of the parliament. To appreciate this development in context, it is worth noting that journalists and media stakeholders have been struggling for years for changes of laws and policies that govern media operations.
To return to the wider socio-economic picture, the six development partners have hailed the government for making progress in some areas of the economy, but have expressed concerns on slow progress in improvement of education, health and water sectors. Mr Hjelmaker, who has been chair of the General Budget Support (GBS)'s Development Partners Group, said, "Last year's results of GBS as measured in the Performance Assessment Framework 2013 are overall weaker than previous years and this is a concern. Some good progress is, however, noted."
He mentioned that achievements included a higher proportion of districts with three or more nurses and midwifes per 10,000 people, and the continued decentralisation of natural resources. There have been, also, improvements in budget transparency and governance of procurements, as well as the accreditation of Tanzania in the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI).
However, he challenged the government to improve on poor primary and secondary school performance. He observed that pass rates have dropped and that there are a greater number of pupils relative to teachers.
The government's response
Tanzania's Deputy Minister for Finance, Saada Mkuya Salum, has stressed that the nation's performance for 2013 is encouraging, despite some of the challenges encountered.
Minister Salum observed that the Tanzanian government was looking for higher socio-economic performance in future, and that the problems encountered recently were taken as challenges ahead of meeting goals in 2014.
Recovering funds misspent in Tanzania
The six donor countries are committed to the recovery of 280,000 euros (TSh644 million) from the government of Tanzania after they learnt that the money was not used as intended. Amongst the first to respond, the Finnish Ministry of Foreign affairs expressed its intention to recover its cash from the Tanzanian administration.
Finland’s share of the support to be recovered is about 80,000 euros, which corresponds to Finland’s share of support programme financing. The money was offered in order to support the reform of Tanzania’s local government. The Finns confirmed also that all donor countries financing the reform of local government decided to recover the funds and officially notified the Tanzanian government of this intention. Specifically, the Finnish government stated, “The funds intended for the reform of Tanzania’s local government have been used for unacceptable purposes.”
Among the misuse discovered after conducting an auditing was cars purchased at exorbitant prices and excessive and unduly paid per diem allowances and fees.
The Finnish Head of the Unit for Eastern and Western Africa at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ms Helena Airaksinen said, “We don’t approve of the misuse of funds; therefore, the issue is investigated thoroughly. However, the people who suffer the most are ordinary Tanzanians who need the basic services provided by municipalities.”
When reached for comment, The Swedish Deputy Head of Mission, Maria Van Berlekom said the use of donor fund for LGRP II was frozen early this year. She said Swedish support covered the period to June 2013.
How the public reacts to aid misuse
Some citizens who were interviewed on the donors’ decision to recover the money said it was a good decision that should see the government of Tanzania working hard to become more careful on the utilisation of foreign aid. Mr Gerson John, a mechanic in Tegeta in the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, said it has been a normal thing for government officials to misuse funds, knowing there was no one to check or follow up on fund usage.
"We have been hearing about these financial support for many decades, but our lives do not change. It is obvious our fellow on top posts are misallocating the fund,” he said.
Ms Neema Athuman, a primary teacher in Dar es Salaam, said the donors’ reaction on the matter was right - and that they should press the government to punish all who misappropriated the money.
“What we need now is to see those officials taken to court and face charges of abuse of office. It is an offence to purchase a vehicle using the money that has been offered for another important issue,” she said.
Mr Maggid Mjengwa, a political and media analyst based in Iringa, noted that Finance Minister Dr William Mgimwa must choose to bring to court all officials who approved the misuse of funds, or else step down from the post. He wrote, “We should not keep a smiling face for the Minister on this. He must make sure those officials concerned are punished.”
Executive Director for Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC) Dr Hellen Kijjo Bisimba told this writer in an interview that it was wrong to use the money inappropriately. Dr Bisimba said it was now the duty of the government to identify all officials who approved the misuse of the fund and punish them accordingly.
“The government of Tanzania must make sure all officials concerned in this matter are punished. It is an offence to use the money against the intended purposes. This could even affect the image of the country, as donors could not trust us again,” she explained.
Tanzania is still one of the world's largest recipients of general budget support - and this year (2013/2014) the country expects to receive US$560 million. During the financial year 2012/2013, development partners distributed aid amounting to US$584 million, rather than US$495 million which was originally committed.