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Ministry should keep firm eye on TANESCO operations clean up

23rd September 2012
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Editorial Cartoon

Plenty has been happening in the way of changing the way things are being run in the state power monopoly, the Tanzania Electric Supply Co. (TANESCO) since the Ministry of Energy and Minerals moved to sideline erstwhile managing director, Engineer William Mhando.

The new management at the giant parastatal has been working day and night to disrupt faulty connections of electricity, and other faulty connections to the LUKU vending software and equipment, where private entrepreneurs sell valid LUKU ‘tokens’ at normal prices and buyers get power. But the seller is not an authorized company agent.

While these efforts are evidently positive, it is clear that there is a ‘silver lining’ at the margin of the cloud of change, that things are well on the way of coming back to normal, as the TANESCO system readapts to the new challenges, and absorbs the pressure arising from the formidable duo of Eliakim Maswi and Prof. Sospeter Muhongo.

Eng. Mhando and his legislature friends had tried to unseat both of them and failed, compelling the torch to be directed to their side, and those who have taken over chairs are likely to be wishing to do the same thing as their predecessors, as it is human nature. Unless supervised from the ministry, chances that TANESCO supervises itself and weeds out leakages are nil.

One telling sign that the campaign doesn’t have much to go before it emits its last firecrackers is the now adopted standard mood of the relatively new TANESCO management, that the weeding out started in August last year, and has saved three billion shillings by billing those who had not paid for power.

It is interesting to hear that TANESCO had actually started an effective campaign before the ministerial duo came around, and that it is sometimes within that period that private LUKU vendors were discovered in the city, before the duo came in. The point is, this formulation of a campaign dating August 2011 is an effort at making this exercise banal, part of day to day work in TANESCO, without transformative goals.

An auxiliary source of danger is the societal dimension of parastatal autonomy, that it is a way of doing things that has lasted for 45 years since the organizations were formed, and took their current outlook from 1982, at a time that ‘professionals’ started decrying ‘interference’ from politicians.

The basis of that contention is that managements are technically competent and left to do their work, the results are better than when politicians (the ministers, MPs) begin interfering, a position that has been taken up rather gullibly by those one would expect they know better.

Managements in public or state companies do not operate their own capital, or that of private shareholders and owners who ensure that no tricks crop up like private LUKU vendors, where no such internal company oversight is available with state forms, as boards of directors tend to be colleagues and marginal restraining influences in sabotage acts.

The professional lobbies have a vested interest in parastatal autonomy; they won’t just let go, in which case sounds are being raised in certain quarters against creeping ‘political interference’ in parastatals.

This follows actions by several ministers against entrenched corrupt interests from TANESCO to the port of Dar es Salaam, lately interesting escort of a wagon to steal copper being shipped out, removal of top bosses at wildlife and national parks system, etc. Professors at the University of Dar es Salaam are being heard deriding this interference, wishing to believe that parastatal managements seek only public good.

The total inability of the media, the legislature, NGOs and any other quarters to blow the whistle that most parastatal managements were impoverishing the country is an illustration of how entrenched the parastatal system has become, and that it will be protected even if it is just a burden to the state.

That is how other countries in Africa have battled to dead end or perhaps otherwise, their own entrenched and wasteful public arrangements, the way Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been trying to reform the lopsided oil sector subsidies in that country, leaving it polarized and paralysed.

Owing to total failure of parastatals to become the foundation of a vibrant economy, both Nigeria and Tanzania are alarming underperformers at a global economic level, poverty reduction or infrastructure, given their resources.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN ON SUNDAY
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