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When a toothless parliament turns CAG`s report into a caricature

22nd April 2012
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Parliament this season appears to have started with a bang. Our legislators, quite a gifted lot, have learnt to perfect their performance.

They know that voters in their respective constituencies are increasingly demanding government accountability and expect MPs to act on their behalf. The legislators are, indeed, acting well and their performance is amazing.

The play this week was based on the CAG’s report. This is the customary annual report in which the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) provides details on the misuse, wastage or misappropriation of public funds at the hands of those we trust most.

Television screens showed a number of animated legislators from across the isles demanding a pound of flesh from the CCM government.

The ruling party parliamentarians led the fray in admonishing their own government; some going as far as saying that the ruling party would be voted out of power in 2015 because of corruption, disregard for wananchi and impunity.

Everyone would wish this wasn’t a play. But wananchi are now used to the political soap opera which, luckily enough, is brought to their TV screens at home in almost every parliamentary season.

Voters have witnessed, on countless occasions, ruling party MPs getting animated, angry and ready to shoot down the government, only to make a U-turn moments later to save the face of the same government they scolded contemptuously.

These honourable parliamentarians from the ruling party would shout, scold, swear, and curse the government for nine minutes. In the tenth minute they would say: “Having said that, I support the government 100%”. Indeed, this would have amounted to absurdity if it wasn’t said in a political play, which it normally is anyway.

Nonetheless, some opposition MPs have proved to be a thorn in the foot of the government despite their numerical disadvantage. They know that although they are fewer in numbers they can compensate this disadvantage with smarter strategies and contributions.

The latest strategy in this direction comes from the chairperson of the Parliamentary Parastalal Organisations Accounts Committee (POAC), MP for Kigoma North, Zitto Kabwe. He wants the Prime Minister to resign because his ministers accused of corruption, negligence and abuse of office have refused to take responsibility. Kabwe’s timing is cool. He calls for the PM’s resignation at a time when some CCM MPs in the current play are still live on stage. He knows he might get their 70+ signatures to initiate an onslaught on the government.

But this strategy is likely to be an anticlimax. Two scenarios: one, Kabwe might not be able to get the total number of signatures needed for him to pull down the PM. The ruling party shall use this weekend to meet with its legislators, behind the scenes, to change the coming acts. But if the second scenario upholds, the one of 70+ signatures, then what is likely to happen in parliament is quite familiar.

The PM is likely to summon his emotions to explain, in tears, the difficulty of running a government in Africa and the challenges this country faces. Given the PM’s gifted eloquence as well as convincing power the MPs on stage will most likely call off the remaining acts.

That way, the government, the MPs and the media will have survived. The government will have survived an onslaught (which, in most cases, is more apparent than real), the MPs will have boosted their ratings in their respective constituencies (that they were very keen and serious in holding the government to account) and the media will have benefitted from juicy news resulting from the plays in the august House.

The losers are quite familiar – the electorate. Voters tend to remain at the fence as mere spectators of the play – distant spectators without any expert around to help them interpret the meanings and context of what they are witnessing. Another loser is the National Audit Office of Tanzania (NAOT) which has, in recent years, been doing a commendable job of publishing reports that are timely and meticulous in details.

In fact, it seems to me that this country has, in its quest for political jokes and plays, turned CAG’s report into a caricature of some sort. Each year the CAG’s report reveals increased incidents of misuse of public funds.

However, as usual, the legislators get cocky, animated, angry and loud - demanding a pound of flesh from the government. But just as the spectators expect more drama, the legislators soften up abruptly like boiled spaghetti.

The voters, who are the spectators, remain waiting for yet another play next season during which they would be exposed to an august House entertainment for some days. And life goes on. The winners continue to win, the losers keep losing. They call it democracy.

 

ayubrioba@hotmail.com

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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