Minister for Industry and Trade Dr. Abdalah Kigoda has suspended Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Director General Charles Ekelege in order to pave the way for investigation.
Kigoda, who was appointed Industry and Trade Minister in the recent reshuffle, told a news conference in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the decision to suspend the TBS boss was made following a decision reached by the National Assembly at its last sitting in Dodoma based on the Controller and Auditor General (CAG)‘s, report, which revealed a number of irregularities and financial mismanagement in TBS.
Elaborating, the minister said the CAG report showed explicitly that the vehicle inspection programme which was being executed by TBS agents caused the government a loss amounting to close to Sh30 billion, only to be revealed later that such vehicle inspections never took place, contrary to TBS records.
“Soon after my appointed as minister, I took the immediate action of suspending the TBS director pending other procedures because letting the situation remain as it is it would make no sense,” said Kigoda.
Meanwhile, Dr. Kigoda has said that during his time in office he will focus on problems which led to the collapse of a number of manufacturing industries in the country as well as cutting down investment and operational costs.
According to Kigoda, there were several industries which were not operational while some were marginally operational, with little notable benefit, such as cotton, textile and cashew nut factories.
He noted that these were the key areas he planned to focus on first with a view to bringing impact on national economic development.
“I shall also make sure that General Tire industry, which is currently not operational, is revived,” he said. However, he did not specify when this would be done.
With regard to the privatization policy, which he once pushed as a cabinet minister, he said the policy was helpful for some industries to become more vibrant and efficient compared to the era of government economic monopoly. He mentioned some of the notable examples as brewery, cement and cigarette industries.
Vehicle inspection scam Suspension of TBS boss Ekelege comes a few months after a subcommittee of the parliamentary Standing Committee on Parastatal Organisations Accounts (POAC) revealed that TBS did not inspect vehicles abroad, contrary to the bureau’s records and constant proclamation.
The parliamentary committee’s report showed that the TBS management had provided the oversight team with wrong information on vehicle inspection offices in various countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore and China .
The POAC, led by opposition MP Kabwe Zitto, persistently called for the immediate sacking of the TBS boss, though the move met stiff resistance from the recently sacked minister, Cyril Chami, who eventually proved to have been the architect of his own downfall.
Industry and Trade ministry permanent secretary Joyce Mapunjo once said in an interview with this paper that the government would study the report to establish whether TBS indeed lied to the parliamentary committee on the issue.
She however explained that, according to the Standards Act of 2009, the bureau has the right to float and award tenders to foreign companies to work on its behalf.
Mapunjo was quoted then as saying: “What I know is that TBS has agents abroad, some of them being Tanzanian nationals. So we are waiting for the POAC report so that we can work on it at the ministerial level.”
However, POAC vice-chairman Deo Filikunjombe was emphatic at one of the meetings of the House that the bureau, under the leadership of Ekelege, had lied to the team by telling it that it (TBS) owned and ran vehicle inspection offices abroad.
He then said that the probe team travelled abroad to inspect the alleged vehicle inspection offices - going to Singapore, Hong Kong and in China - as per information from the bureau’s management, but what they saw were worlds apart from what they had previously been led to believe by TBS.
On the other hand, parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman John Cheyo said Ekelege once took them to an office which was not meant for vehicle inspection, adding: “That happened when we went to Singapore and Hong Kong where, after questioning him, he said that it was only a temporary office.”