What Controller and Auditor General Ludovic Utouh revealed while unveiling his 2011 government Audit report in Dodoma a few days ago, that public funds are being squandered with impunity, is obviously not news to the citizens of this country.
The only new development is the amount of money being embezzled in one way or another, which is in billions and seems to be rising to trillions of shillings.
We are saying few people will be surprised to hear what the Audit Office has reported in process of doing its duty because it is the same story we get every year. Even the barely disguised loopholes and excuses used in the open theft and calculated financial sabotage are the same.
Stealing public money is now part of the public servants’ culture, for those engaged in the dirty game remain role models in society, as they display their ill gotten wealth in broad day light - unfortunate as this national self destruction mess may be.
How we fail to block clearly identified theft avenues of public money is disturbing and unbelievable. The report cites payments made in respect to maintenance of government vehicles as one of the loopholes used to divert billions of money to the pockets of dishonest public officers and their comrades in crime in the private sector.
This is part of the story, as even the cost of buying expensive and fuel guzzling luxurious vehicles for government bureaucrats and other fat cats in the political establishment is a burden to the poor taxpayer. Much has been said about the malpractice and promises to address the issue are one of the popular, or rather unpopular songs, but nothing is happening.
One notes that institutions in central government departments as well as local government authorities which have excelled in this malpractice are mentioned by name. Common sense, much as it may not be all that common, tells us that in this case the suspected culprits that is - officers in these institutions, are known and the buck ought to stop at their doors. Why such tainted characters remain safe in their abused public nests is a puzzle, to put it mildly.
Ghost workers who have refused to die despite being targeted to be killed for the last ten or so years, if my memory serves me well, are another conduit used to bleed the treasury dry. We are told a cool one billion shillings disappeared in thin air by paying invisible workers during the period under review.
This money is enough to buy several ambulances or to equip a number of primary schools with desks and other basic requirements. Is it true that the issue of ghost workers is too complicated to be handled or contained once and for all in the 21st century?
Theft avenue number three highlighted in the down- to- earth CAG’s report is making payments in respect to undelivered goods and services. To add insult to injury, it has been reported that the blatant looters made part of the payment in advance.
One would expect a hint of this nature to attract the attention of the criminal investigation police department or the anti- Corruption Bureau, or both, immediately, leading to an urgent and express mission of finding out what really transpired in the implicated institutions or government agencies.
Questionable tax exemptions and over spending continue unabated. There have always been plans to take measures and ensure transparency prevails in this area but little results are seen in practice.
A combination of these financial malpractices and other factors are an obvious recipe for a massive national debt reported to have risen from 10.5 trillion in 2009/20010 to 14.4 trillion in 2010/2011. Who are we to blame for this kind of financial mess?
Legislators have made much noise about the ongoing looting, but many citizens hesitate to take them seriously as nobody can guarantee that most of them cannot board the gravy train when the opportunity arises – not when they turn a blind eye to the sitting allowance system abuse in government and crave to be on board. It is high time members of the public reacted seriously to this white collar crime and injustice.
Henry Muhanika is Media Consultant