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Tales of House oversight committees and sleeping state apparatus

22nd April 2012
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House Speaker Anne Makinda

A very interesting development has in the past few years been playing out in the National Assembly in Dodoma, perhaps without the notice of many people.

Through the formation of special oversight committees, the National Assembly has slowly, but steadily, been transforming itself into a major player in ensuring accountability by the government.

While this development is quite commendable on the one hand, on the other hand it has raised questions over the continued existence of other equally important institutions which are entrusted with fighting crime in the country.

Institutions which immediately spring to mind here include the police force and, in particular, its investigative arm - the Directorate of Criminal Investigation - the Tanzania Intelligence and Security Services (TISS) and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).

In a nutshell, problems which are repeatedly raised by parliamentary oversight committees, most of which have lately bordered on the criminal, have always left the nation reeling with utter shock.

The impression that one discerns from the public is that they have heard about the existence of such criminal acts perpetrated by government leaders and employees for the first time.

In other words, gone are the days when the police would come up with a hard-hitting statement to the effect that they are holding a number of suspects in connection with economic sabotage or for selling government secrets to the enemy.

The days when the government would come up with a shocking revelation over this or that criminal activity perpetrated against it or the nation at large have long been a thing of the past, so much so that we are no longer sure what TISS, for instance, is supposed to do.

The latter question is very pertinent because most issues which have been raised by the three parliamentary oversight committees relating to Air Tanzania Company Limited (ATCL) or Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) are supposed to have not only been known to the government, but the government should have long dealt with the culprits.

For instance, in the ATCL case, the National Assembly was told by one of the parliamentary oversight committees that a contract entered into in respect of hiring an Airbus 340 plane would cost the country 300bn/- (200m US dollars) - an amount which could have given Tanzania two brand new Airbus 340 planes!

The pertinent question here is: where was the government when unscrupulous people in ATCL involved the nation in the disastrous contract which has all the tell-tale signs of corruption?

Where was TISS, which is supposed to have both internal and external personnel for making close follow-ups, especially in the way public institutions are run? Where was PCCB or the DCI’s office for that matter? Should the public believe that there was not even a single whistleblower in ATCL or TBS who could have tipped any of the security organs?

Or should the public go with the general argument that it was in fact one of the state security organs which leaked the information after discovering that the powers that be were not taking action even after being told about the rot in the said public institutions?

When one challenges some members of the country’s security organs on whether or not they were aware of what was being rumoured to be taking place in some public institutions, their answer is always, ‘We are quite aware of that…we have informed the powers that be and our mandate ends there - that of giving out information, but not forcing one to act.’

This leads us to the second very important question: what should such security organs do to the powers that be in order to be taken seriously on what they report on the rot in the country’s public and other sensitive institutions?

If the powers that be do not act even after being authoritatively informed by their own security organs, some of which have lately acquired imposing and very expensive headquarters in Dar es Salaam, is there any sense in maintaining them?

If the powers that be only act when and until parliamentary oversight committees have exposed the rot, are the powers that be mindful of the hard earned taxpayers’ money that are spent on the parliamentary oversight committees in the quest for such crucial information?

Going by the debate in the National Assembly after the submission of the three reports by the parliamentary oversight committees this week, the MPs called on at least five ministers to resign, or less they would force hapless Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda to resign.

Should the five ministers remain put, as is always the case with senior government officials in this country, and President Jakaya Kikwete, currently out of the country, does not force them out, what will happen next?.

The point is, if the ministers or the president fail to act, then the president will have late to reconstitute a new government with the appointment of another prime minister as head of the new government. And if that happened this would be the second time in the president’s tenure to be forced to dissolve the government and appoint a new one, complete with a new prime minister.

The first time the president did this was in March 2008 when Prime Minister Edward Lowassa was forced to resign after a parliamentary probe committee led by Kyela MP Dr Harrison Mwakyembe linked him to what has come to be infamously referred to as the Richmond scandal.

Some of the economic consequences that the nation would have to bear should the pm be kicked out by the House will be more terminal benefits for a ‘new’ former prime minister.

It was being mindful of that that third phase President Benjamin Mkapa maintained Primier Frederick Sumaye during his two, five-year terms from 1995 to 2005.

Mkapa has come under numerous scathing attacks over the handling of his administration, but one area he has received kudos from the public has been his sterling role of managing the economy. However, if the president decides that he cannot be pushed around, then come Monday he may be forced to form a new government.

Only very recently he said he did not see anything wrong with his minister for Health and Social Welfare. What about the conduct of four other ministers whose hands are alleged to have been found in the till?

One of the ruling party’s own MPs says that 19 ministers must go while others say at least five should do so, and that excludes those who refused to go in other serious incidents, including two bomb explosion incidents at army camps in Dar es Salaam’s Mbagala and Gongo la Mboto suburbs.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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