The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) is investigating the manner in which hunting blocks for 2013-2018 season were allocated to 16 companies by the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources.
The probe follows allegations that the allocation exercise was marred by massive irregularities and corruption.
The PCCB Director General Dr Edward Hosea confirmed over the phone that the watchdog was probing the issue.
The Guardian had sought PCCB’s comment on corruption allegations leveled against the Ministry of Tourism and Natural Resources on issuance of hunting blocks as reported in Parliament in April, this year.
Parliamentary Standing Committee for Land, Natural Resources and Environment report table in the Parliament on 23rd April 2012 by its chairman James Lembeli, raised the corruption allegations, accusing Ministry officials of corrupt practices which denied the government revenue.
The report among other things cast doubts on how the hunting blocks were allocated, the capturing and transporting of live animals to Karachi City in Pakistan.
According to the PCCB Director General, the investigation on the allocation of hunting blocks and other issues pertaining to wildlife and natural resources is at an advanced stage and that PCCB will leave no stone unturned in the investigation.
“At the moment I cannot reveal anything. We are still investigating the whole exercise and when this is done you will be informed,” Hosea told The Guardian.
The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Land, Natural Resources and Environment, stirred a heated debate in the National Assembly.
It accuses the then minister Maige of acting contrary to the advice given by the Hunting Blocks Allocation Advisory Committee, by giving Said Kawawa Hunting Safaris Limited, Maragalasi Hunting Safaris Ltd, and Mwanauta and Company Ltd hunting blocks. The advisory committee had reportedly recommended against allocating blocks to the three companies because they did not possess the needed qualifications to be allocated hunting blocks.
Lembeli’s committee also noted that the 16 companies were given hunting blocks without applying for them, a controversial approach according to stakeholders who pointed out that there were procedures to be followed before a company was granted a hunting block.
Dionis Kaguo from Iringa, told the Guardian that, if that is what happened, then there was gross disregard of laws, rules and regulations on the part of the Minister and his team.
Efforts by The Guardia to confirm the procedures for a company to be granted hunting block rights found that the first step is for the Minister to invite applications through the media.
Hunting companies then apply as per laws and regulations governing the hunting industry in the country and then pay application fees via bank, and submit the bank slip to the Ministry for which they are issued with a government receipt and numbered.
A physical inspection of the capacity of the applying company to undertake trophy hunting business is undertaken after which successful companies are allocated hunting blocks followed by an allocation letter from the Ministry.
The Guardian has seen copies of hunting block application forms, notification letters for conducting physical verification from the Ministry to applicants, hunting block allocation letters from the Ministry to applicants, government bill and the exchequer receipts (government receipt) of four companies out of the 16 alleged by the Lembeli report to have been given hunting blocks without requesting.
The Guardian also contacted Augustino Ntomola the Director of Mbogo Hunting Safaris, a company also mentioned to have been allocated a hunting block without requesting and was shocked to be told that, he is also surprised as to how the firm appeared in the report while it has no hunting block nor did it apply.
Efforts by The Guardian to get comments from the Minister of Tourism and Natural Resources did not bear fruit as he did not pick up his mobile phone despite several calls.
Other companies reported to have been given hunting blocks without requesting as mentioned in Lembeli’s report are; Mkwawa Hunting Safaris (T) Limited, Fereck Safaris Limited, EBN Hunting Safaris Limited, Wild Footprints Limited, Auto Africa Safaris Limited, HSK Safari Company Limited, Green Leaf Limited, African Trophy Hunting Limited, African Buffalos Safari Trackers Limited, FOA Adventure Safaris Limited, Robin Hurt Safaris Ltd, Michel Maenthiakes Safaris Ltd, Melami Hunting Safaris Ltd, and Safari Club Ltd.
Already four companies Robin Hurt Safaris Ltd, Michel Maenthiakes Safaris Ltd, Melami Hunting Safaris Ltd, and Fereck Safaris Limited have written to the National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda, expressing their grievances on the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Lands, Natural Resources and Environment report.
Through their lawyers, they complain against the contents of the report found on pages 45, 46, 47, 85, 86, and 87, argues that the report wrongly impute corrupt practices, tax evasion and other illegalities on them, damaging their reputation and credibility.