Industry and Trade Minister Cyril Chami yesterday shrugged off pressure to suspend Tanzania Bureau of Standards director Charles Ekelege, over the allegations of massive corruption in pre-shipment vehicle-inspection.
The minister was reacting to a call by the Parastatal Organisations Accounts Committee Chairman Zitto Kabwe to uspend the TBS director to pave way for smooth investigations into the claims of corruption in pre-shipment vehicle inspection.
“We (POAC) are giving the minister only one week to suspend him failure of which we will take further action,” Kabwe said, adding: “If he is proved innocent, he would resume work.”
Kabwe has accused the TBS boss of producing false information about the entire pre-shipment vehicle inspection exercise.
But minister Chami described the claims as mere allegations which had not been proved.
He explained that the allegations were raised recently in the Parliament by three parliamentary committees, noting: “As the responsible minister, I need to get proof.”
“Removing Ekelege from his position would not help to establish the truth…it doesn’t mean everything will be changed. It won’t reduce importation of counterfeit goods. Before taking any action against Ekelege, we need to get last year’s report of POAC’s tour in the respective countries,” noted Chami.
According to Chami, POAC members toured the countries on August 2011, but since then they had not presented any report concerning their findings to his office.
He claimed to know the saga from the media on returning from a neighboring country where he had been attending a meeting.
The minister said it was not easy to suspend pre-shipment exercise or penalise a person without substantive evidence, observing doing so amounts to taking away someone’s right.
“The problem is not him but the system of importing the goods and how to control them from being of low quality,” said Chami.
Minister added: “I am not disputing what Members of Parliament observed. I am asking them to give us their report because before MPs go to inspect any national institution they must have permission from the Parliament. After the tour they present a report to the Bunge Office which has the responsibility of informing the government on the real situation observed by the committee.
“But until today no report has been received from Bunge office,” he insisted.
Recently, the government said it was still making a follow-up on the POAC report accusing the Tanzania Bureau of Standards management of giving the oversight team wrong information on vehicle inspection offices abroad.
Kabwe yesterday explained that his committee had already compiled a report on the committee’s visit to Singapore and Hong Kong, where TBS claims to have set up reshipment vehicle inspection offices, and submitted the document to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Anne Makinda. Kabwe declined to disclose the contents of the report.
POAC acting chairman Deo Filikunjombe told a recent meeting of the House committee that the bureau under the leadership of Ekelege had lied to the team by telling it that it (TBS) owns and runs vehicle inspection offices abroad.
“We traveled abroad to inspect those vehicle inspection offices - going to Singapore, Hong Kong and in China - as per information from the bureau’s management, but what we saw were worlds different from what we had been told (by TBS),” he said.
Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman, John Cheyo, said Ekelege once took them to an office that 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.”
He subsequently turned down the 2011 TBS report, saying it was full of errors, some of which were in relation to the number of vehicles inspected and the amount of money collected during the period.