Transport Minister Omari Nundu has broken his silence on the culprits behind the construction of berths 13 and 14 at the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), naming his deputy minister Dr Athumani Mfutakamba as among them.
Speaking to reporters in Dodoma yesterday, Nundu said he had nothing to do with China Merchant Holdings (International) Company Limited and had never signed any Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the company.
“There is this China Communication Construction Ltd (CCC). This is the root cause of all what you hear. There are people behind the project and they want to force CCC to qualify, while the company doesn’t,” said Nundu.
He said there was pressure that CCC must build the berths adding: “I refused but to my surprise, my Deputy Minister Athuman Mfutakamba without my permission or even any notification travelled with them to China and later to Mauritania and Guinea Bissau.When he returned, he wrote a report and sent it, I don’t know where.
I never saw the report,” he said, clarifying that before they had been working together, but currently because of CCC, his deputy seemed to side with the Parliamentary Committee and the TPA.
“Now, they have turned against me. They are saying I have China Merchant and worse still it is in the parliamentary Hansard. All this is being engineered by the parliamentary committee,” lamented Nundu.
He said when the proposal from the China Merchant Holdings (International) Limited was brought in the ministry, he was in Zambia and the Permanent Secretary signed it.
The minister said the company had followed all procedures.
“When I went to China, I told my officers to come with the proposal signed by my Permanent Secretary. They said they wanted to make a feasibility study using their own funds,” he said.
He said he wanted to hear how much they were going to charge for the construction of the two berths. They said US$300 million instead of US$542 million of CCC,” he said. But according to him, still the TPA and the Parliamentary Committee want CCC to be given the project.
“Worse still is that they want even after CCC has been given the project at US$300 million, then we have to give it a difference of US$242 million. Why this and whose money is it? To whom are they going to give that amount of money for nothing?” asked Nundu.
He said the firm started showing interest since 2008 but had done nothing.
“The problem is that it is not known how this company came about and the procedures it used to win the tender were dubious,” he explained.
He said he was surprised to see some of Members of Parliament favouring the company, which according to him, didn’t even have any contract with the government.
“The owners of the company say they will do a feasibility study themselves, look for funds for the construction of the two berths at US$542 million,” he noted.
He explained that he had asked if there was a contract and where they would get the money from but they later told him they got funds from the Exim Bank of China.
“I told them that this is contrary to laws guiding investment matters. It is not right for an investor who is a contractor to be also a source of funds for us,” said Nundu.
The minister said by the time they mentioned Exim Bank of China, already on the government list they had proposed several financial institutions including DB of Southern Africa, HFC, Stanbic Bank of Tanzania, Standard Chartered and Barclays Banks of Tanzania.
“But they leaned towards the Exim Bank of China,” he said.
He said he had held talks with some Chinese officials, who came in the country and later he did the same with the president of the Exim Bank of China, when he went there.
Nundu said when CCC was being promoted by some people, already several foreign and local companies too had shown interest in investing in the same project.
“As we were trying to look for a competent investor, TPA and CCC on their part were pushing for CCC to acquire the project,” he said.
According to Nundu it is impossible for a contractor to be also a donor. “How come a contractor finds some money for you and then gives it to you for the construction he is going to do?” Nundu queried.
“I said even if the government of China gives a loan through the Exim Bank, we must get an investor through competition. We need to bring in as many companies as possible to compete and only the winner will be given the tender,” said Nundu.
The minister stated that the committee had tabled a wrong report on the construction of the berth. “There is no loan from Chinese Exim Bank, no MoU which the committee claims, and China Merchants, which they claim to be his company followed all requisite procedures,” he said.
He said there was a need to investigate CCC and the projects it had done in other countries.
“It might be that it has changed its name. It used to be called China Bridge and Road Construction Company in some countries,” said Nundu.
“When I came back in the country I found that the projects had not taken off. They had all died. Did I do justice to my country? Is this what I want to achieve when I have been appointed minister? I want to pay back to this country. This is the only chance that I can serve my country. I don’t think resigning will make me pay back all this. I want to make changes in the areas I think fit,” said Nundu, shedding tears.
When contacted by telephone on the accusations by minister Nundu, Mfutakamba denied being involved in the tendering for the construction of the berths.
The deputy minister said there was no way he could be involved in the process, when there was a specific authority tasked with supervising public tendering.
He said one of his duties was to advise the minister and not to put pressure on him to favour a particular firm to be awarded a particular job.
“What would I benefit from such an undertaking?” he asked.
He also denied the accusation that he had left the country without informing the minister, stressing: “ I have been in the government for a long time. I cannot leave the country without notifying my minister and the Prime Minister. What if I get into trouble? How will I defend myself?
He stressed that as far as he was concerned his working relationship with the minister was good and he knew of no problems.