National Assembly speaker Anne Makinda yesterday refused Kigoma-North MP Kabwe Zitto assistance to access confidential documents the latter claimed would help him defend a pending case in the House.
She turned down the request in Parliament when announcing her decision following the request sent to her office by Zitto through an official letter in which the MP appealed for support to access confidential government documents.
Makinda said the MP wanted her office to back him in obtaining sensitive documents he named as reports of the Inter-ministerial Technical Committee (IMTC) and Cabinet on the discussion about the fate of Consolidated Holdings Corporation (CHC).
According to her, the two government documents that Zitto sought could not be accessed by members of the public, including him, since they were highly confidential and could not be obtained under the Parliamentary Immunities, Powers and Privileges Act, 2004, as pointed out by the MP in his request.
Zitto said he needed the classified documents to prove a statement he made in the House last week that the proposal to disband the CHC after three years before transferring its activities to Treasury Registrar was influenced by lobbyists.
Makinda had given Zitto until yesterday to prove his claims, but after announcing her decision yesterday, she extended the deadline to July 4 (next Monday).
Makinda backed her ruling with precedent from a ruling made by former Speaker Samuel Sitta on July 1, 2008 when former Energy and Minerals minister Nazir Karamagi defended himself in Parliament after claiming that he was certain the decision to extend the Tanzania International Container Terminal Services Ltd (TICTS) contract by additional 15 years was discussed by the cabinet.
She explained that, since Karamagi had already resigned from the ministerial post due to the Richmond scandal, Sitta ruled that there was no way he (Karamagi) could have access to the agenda discussed by the cabinet to which he was no longer a member.
Zitto said in his request he needed the two documents urgently to be able to prove his statement in the august House, but needed help from Speaker’s office to get a hand on them because he was neither a member to IMTC nor Cabinet.
When debating the Resolution on the Corporation on Thursday last week Zitto told the House that he was certain that the government’s decision to give the CHC an extension of three years before disbanding it was influenced by lobbyists because at parliamentary committee level, the matter had been discussed in a different perspective.
Zitto’s remarks angered cabinet ministers such as Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (Policy, Co-ordination and Parliamentary Affairs) William Lukuvi and Minister of State in the prime minister’s office (Regional Administration and Local Governments) George Mkuchika. The former demanded that the MP prove or withdraw his statement.
When tabling the CHC Resolution last Thursday, Finance minister Mustafa Mkullo told the House that since the existence of the CHC was coming to end on June 30, this year, it was imperative for the House to prolong its operations by another three years before transferring its responsibilities and duties to the Treasury Registrar.
The decision was opposed by Zitto, who in his statement had said the Resolution was intended to ensure the corporation was disbanded to create loopholes for loss and theft of public property in public corporations it oversee.
In his argument Zitto told the House that the Treasury Registrar had proved incompetent due to failure to give a clear account of shares that the government owned in privatised public corporations.
Zitto who is also the chairman of the Parliamentary Public Corporations Accounts Committee said when the Parliamentary Committee for Finance and Economic Affairs met in Dar es Saalam to discuss the matter it had rejected the government proposal of extending CHC operations for only three years before transferring its duties to the Treasury Registrar, but the House was surprised to find that the government had decided to carry on with the plan.