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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Why did it take govt so long?

19th May 2012
Editorial cartoon

The Tanzanian government has finally suspended the purchase of expensive and luxurious Japanese vehicles in a move aimed at reducing lavish spending amid a limping economy.

For a decade now we have been strongly questioning the government’s audacity to buy expensive vehicles which even a good number of developed countries don’t use for government business.

At the beginning we were branded as anti-government because of our questioning the wisdom behind the purchase of the four-wheel vehicles. But, since our mission wasn’t to discredit the government or the ruling party, we stood firm and continued to challenge the wisdom behind the procurement of the Japanese fuel guzzlers.

The media, activists and section of politicians joined forces in questioning the ‘wisdom’ of a poor country like Tanzania to buy expensive vehicles for the government. To put things into perspective, a single Toyota Landcruiser costs over Sh200 million - or six tractors which could be used by hundreds of farmers.

To provide a government official with the Sh200 million comfy car, which is equivalent to constructing ten primary school classrooms or tuition fees for 50 university students a year, was a curse and shame to our leaders. This lavishness couldn’t be defended by anybody in their right mind, except by greedy and corrupt officials who don’t care about the well-being and future of this country.

Apart from being expensive in terms of price, these vehicles are also expensive to operate and maintain, especially in a poor country like Tanzania.

The vehicles were meant for well-to-do people, mainly businesspeople, but in Tanzania they became a status symbol and a pride of top government officials.

For instance, the recent reshuffled cabinet has a total of 55 ministers and their deputies, and since each one of them must be provided with one, the fuel guzzlers will cost the country a whopping Sh11 billion.

This cost is of course apart from the monthly operational bills, which The Guardian on Saturday failed to obtain because the Ministry of Works apparently does not maintain up-to-date data on how much it costs to operate a minister’s or a deputy minister’s fancy vehicle.

But we are told that a single such vehicle running on Dar es Salaam’s reasonably good roads, consumes between 90 and 100 litres weekly, while after every 5,000km it costs between Sh700,000 and Sh800,000 for regular maintenance. This means that fuel and maintenance cost roughly Sh1.6 million every month for each vehicle.

However, after a decade-long public cry, the government has finally ditched these expensive vehicles. This is a laudable move, but our question is: Why did it take so long to cancel the procurement of these fuel guzzlers?

For more than ten years, Tanzanians have borne the brunt of these classy vehicles simply because the government either didn’t care or it was not firm in making decisions, whereby it took one step forward and two steps back. During the decade of dilly-dallying we, as a nation, have lost billions of shillings which could have come in handy to fund more deserving development projects.

The challenge lying ahead for the government is to ensure that this noble decision is not subverted by some of its officials who were used to the ‘shangingi’ lifestyle.

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