Natural Resources and Tourism minister Ezekiel Maige was again in the firing line here yesterday over what Members of Parliament described as deliberate mishandling of procedures governing trapping and shipping of live wildlife abroad.
The legislators also accused the minister of deliberate mishandling of the allocation of hunting blocks to hunting companies.
Tabling the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Lands, Natural Resources and Environment report, detailing government performance on the three sectors for the period between April last year and this year, Committee Chairman James Lembeli said an investigation conducted by his committee had revealed gross and deliberate negligence in handling the two exercises.
Lembeli urged the government to hold the minister accountable for creating what he described as ‘corrupt environment’ around the two issues.
This is the second time in less than five months that minister Maige has come under fire in Parliament over more or less the same issues.
Last November the minister was put on the spot by MPs over reports that about 116 live wild animals were caught from their natural habitat on September 2010 and shipped to an unknown foreign land.
The case over the matter still continues in court.
In the report tabled in Parliament yesterday Lembeli said his committee conducted a special investigation on how two giraffes were trapped and shipped off to foreign lands under a permit issued by the ministry on April 29, last year, to a hunting company called Jungle International Limited.
Pinpointing the deliberate anomalies surrounding the issuance of the permit, Lembeli said it was in the form of a letter that however, did not cite reference to any application letter requesting for the said wild animals.
Even when the committee went to the ministry requesting for a copy of the application letter written by Jungle International Limited, no such letter was forthcoming, said Lembeli.
The second anomaly involved the destination of the captured animals. Lembeli said while investigations showed the animals were destined for a special Zoo known as Savannah Plain International School located in Shinyanga, the letter of endorsement from the ministry showed the wildlife animals were to be shipped off to foreign lands.
The third anomaly, according to Lembeli, surrounded the areas where the wild animals were to be captured. He said while the regulations ordered the permit to indicate only one district, from which the animals are to be captured, the permit from the ministry allowed the applicant to trap the animals from Longido, Simanjiro and Monduli districts.
Furthermore, Jungle International Limited did not avail some important documents to substantiate its intent to ship the animals outside the country as was required. Such documents include airway bills and customs stamp.
While the capture of wild animals such as giraffes was supposed to be carried out under a special permit issued by the Director of Wildlife Department, the permit in this case was issued by the Former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry Ladislaus Komba and signed by Senior Wildlife Officer identified as Mohammed Madehele.
Lembeli said his committee learnt that Jungle International Limited was not a legal entity as documents with Business, Registration and Licensing Authority (BRELA) showed that it changed its status and responsibilities on December 28, 2001 into Jungle Auctioneers and Brokers Company, implying that the ministry issued the permit to a non-existent company.
Lembeli said the committee on further investigation noted that on July 19, 2010 the ministry issued a permit No GD/R.20/2/87 dated January 27, 2010, signed by a person identified as B.M.C.M Midala on behalf of the permanent secretary, which identified Karachi City, Pakistan as the recipient of two giraffes, two hippos, two greater kudus and four elands.
On March 23, 2009 the Wildlife Department wrote Karachi City Executive Director a letter, reference No.GD/R.40/20/Vol.II/8 granting it permission to trap four female elephants, but Lembeli said investigations by the committee revealed that there was no evidence to prove that the animals were shipped to the Asian city or documents from Karachi to substantiate that it received the animals.
According to Lembeli, the ministry should have made efforts to satisfy itself that the four female elephants allegedly taken to the Asian city had really arrived there before issuing another permit.
The committee also noted that a person identified as Kamarani Ahmad, a Pakistani national owns legal trapper card No.0016929, against the Wildlife Conservation Act, 2009 that prohibits foreigners from owning such cards.
In the report, Lembeli told MPs that his committee noted serious shortcomings in distribution of hunting blocks to companies for the 2013-2018 hunting season.
He said hunting companies such as Said Kawawa and Malagarasi were awarded First and Second Class hunting blocks while the ministerial advisory committee wanted the minister not to award the blocks to the two companies.
Lembeli said the Government Notice (GN) dated September 7, 2011 on allocation of hunting blocks to 60 companies did not show the blocks awarded to the two companies mentioned above.
He said Section 11 of the Wildlife Conservation Act, 2009 states that: “the minister shall ensure that any modality or system used in allocation of hunting blocks is transparent and is in line with the principles of good governance”.
He said the section above was not adhered to in the hunting blocks allocation process as the GN did not explicitly and openly state which hunting company was awarded which hunting blocks.
Due to such gross irresponsibility, Lembeli called upon the government to take disciplinary measures against the current Permanent Secretary, Dr Erasmus Tarimo, Mohammed Madehele, B.C.M.C Madala and other ministry officials involved.
Responding, minister Maige defended himself saying he did not receive the committee’s report that investigated the scams in the ministry, including exportation of live animals outside the country.
“I just got the parliamentary committee’s report ten minutes before it was presented by its chairman, James Lembeli, in this House. What can I do under such circumstances?” he questioned.
He accused the parliamentary committee of being one-sided, in the course of investigation, taking views from hunting companies and associations and compiling a report, without cross-checking the facts with the minister and his team.