A tug-of-war ensued in the National Assembly here yesterday as Members of Parliament demanded that the beneficiaries of the 1.7trn/- issued by the government to rescue the economy in 2009 be made public, while the Finance ministry said the matter was confidential under the country’s banking laws.
The much Deputy Finance minister Pereira Anne Silima would reveal was that at least 97 companies benefited from the stimulus package.
He made the remarks in response to a question by Leticia Nyerere (Special Seats), saying the firms were compensated for the losses they incurred in the course of the global economic meltdown.
He however explained that he would not name the beneficiaries because financial regulations related to confidentiality prohibited him from doing so.
In her principal question, Nyerere had wanted to know the number of companies that benefited from the package as well as their names and the amount of money paid to bail them out.
She had also wanted to know the source and amount of funds, if the assistance was extended to the firms in the form of loans or grants, when the money would be paid back to the government, and if the firms had been audited by the Controller and Auditor General.
Responding, the deputy minister said the bailout strategy was scheduled to cost 1.7trn/- accessed from both internal and external sources.
He noted that internal loans to cover the income gap would total 828bn/-, with 436.2bn/- being a soft loan from the International Monetary Fund achieved through the exogenous shock facility (ESF). The rest would be allocated by the government through its budget for the purpose of protecting jobs, loans facilitation and investment in infrastructure.
He added however that, until December 2010, the stimulus package funds spent stood at 1.4535trn/- , the 239bn/- gap resulting from lack of funds from some sources including ‘no-show’ donors.
Silima explained that since the funds were included in the government budget, the CAG would audit the expenditure “just as applies to all other public funds”.
Legislator Nyerere recalled that the 2009/2010 report by the CAG established that there was no explanation on the way 48bn/- was spent and that the government had promised to investigate the anomaly and submit report to parliament, but had yet to do so.
She also wondered why the government was reluctant to name the firms that benefited from the stimulus package, noting that it was against parliamentary rules and procedures to deny MPs access to information they needed.
Commenting on the 48bn/-, the deputy minister said details have been submitted to the CAG’s office.
He said a report would also be submitted to the House through its Parliamentary Accounts Committee and the Parliamentary Parastatal Organisations Accounts Committee.
Freeman Mbowe, Leader of the Official Opposition in the House, had earlier demanded that the deputy minister cite the regulations forbidding him from naming the firms.
Silima merely said the issue fell under the law on banks and financial institutions “which stipulates that confidentiality of the customers must be observed”.
Under the law, official transactions between the bank and their customer are regarded as confidential, he insisted.
National Assembly Speaker Anne Makinda soon intervened, demanding that the ministry submit the names of the beneficiaries “because what the MPs are after is not the amount of money pumped in by the Bank of Tanzania to the firms but merely the names of the beneficiaries”.
Parliamentary Standing Order 45 (3) stipulates: “If the Speaker of the National Assembly is not satisfied with a given answer, he or she shall order the respondent to bring the correct version in another parliamentary meeting.”
“The honourable minister should go and work on that question and come back with the correct answer. What the House is after are the names of the companies,” she stressed, with Silima agreeing to go and work with the Bank of Tanzania “to see how we can have the matter presented in the House”.