Since Tanzania reverted to multipartyism the enforcement of leadership ethics in public service has declined sharply, notwithstanding government efforts to reform and empower various statutory institutions created specifically to enforce accountability and ethical conduct in public affairs.
Performance of institutions which are charged with enforcing accountability in the public service has not been impressive. Generally they have not lived to the expectation of the general public.
In the past, scant attention was paid to the reports submitted by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) to the president and the National Assembly. The culprits were left untouched despite efforts by the president to give CAG ‘more teeth to bite’.
This paved the way for non-state actors (NSAs), including, political parties, credible civil society organisations (CSOs) and, in some instances, development partners, to intervene so as to agitate for the enforcement of accountability in the conduct of government business.
The recent serious intervention by the National Assembly, the ruling party's parliamentary caucus and its Central Committee, as well as incipient threats by opposition parties, particularly Chadema and CUF to demand and enforce accountability, must be recognised and appreciated.
The ruling party's decisions are the right steps in the right direction in an effort to enforce accountability in public finance management. The ruling party has sent a strong message to ministers and all accounting officers in the public service to ensure that they duly comply with the laws, rules and regulations governing the procurement and the use of moneys allocated to institutions they are entrusted to serve in the public interest.
Much as the CCM Central Committee's resolutions are timely and required, however, they are neither apanacea nor sufficient ingredients for restoring financial discipline and accountability in the public service.
The resolutions, including an impeding cabinet reshuffle, are necessary but by all means they are insufficient in restoring the lost glory in the domain of public finance management.
Erosion of ethics is phenomenal in Tanzanian society in its entirety. The undesirable performance traits exhibited by some of our leaders is a reflection of unethical behaviour which is prevalent and increasing in society. A number of serious decisions and actions are required, including the following:
First, the statutory accountability and ethical conduct of enforcing institutions, including the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and the Public Leaders Ethics secretariat, must be re-examined and repositioned to enable them execute their mandate effectively, with vigour and rigour. The trust of the public in these very useful accountability enforcing institutions is relatively and substantively withering away.
Secondly, the government must encourage and motivate whistleblowers in government ministries, departments and Agencies as well as in local government authorities. Loyal civil servants and members of the public who are courageous enough to disclose information about malpractices, breach of the public service code of conduct and other public financial management vices must be recognized and motivated.
Thirdly, the public, in its entirety, including credible non-state actors such as civil society organisations and faith-based organizations, should be encouraged and empowered to demand accountability from elected and appointed officials.
This requires a deliberate national civic education strategy in order to conscientize the citizenry and taxpayers on their right to demand accountability from those holding public offices.
Fourthly, the legislation governing the enforcement of discipline in the public service must be reviewed with a view to enacting a more stringent, but not obnoxious, legislation that will not only prevent malpractices and bureaucratic maladies, but also impose heavy penalties on culprits and zero-tolerance to all incidents of unaccountability.
Fifth, the curricula in learning institutions must be reviewed with the intention of mainstreaming the subjects of ethics and good governance in learning packages at all levels in the educational ladder.
However, the most important point is that the coming debate on the new constitution should also focus on the need for creating vibrant institutional and legal frameworks for enforcing and promoting accountability in the country.
It should be noted that restoration of accountability in the public service requires, among other things, unquestionable political will, a holistic approach rather than piecemeal strategies, and joint efforts by both the state and non-state actors.
Dr Benson Bana is head of the Political Science and Public Administration Department of the University of Dar es Salaam and co-chair of Research and Education Democracy in Tanzania (REDET), a political think tank.