In a rare public outburst, Mpango roundly criticised Dar es Salaam Regional Commissioner Paul Makonda for trying to get a shipment of 20 containers of furniture cleared at the Dar es Salaam port without the relevant taxes worth close to 1.2 billion shillings being paid, contrary to the law.
"I took an oath to enforce tax laws and I will not waver … On that, I'm ready to ask the president ... that that's it. It's enough," a visibly resolute Mpango declared in Dar es Salaam on Monday after inspecting the shipping containers being held by customs officials for unpaid taxes.
“The rule of law must prevail. We will not victimise anyone nor will we fear anyone when it comes to enforcement of tax laws ... We must uphold our laws - we can't play around with taxes.”
Makonda claims that he received the furniture as a donation from Tanzanians living in the United States as part of his efforts to build modern offices for teachers in Dar es Salaam’s public schools.
But Mpango insisted that the law was categorical that all furniture items imported into Tanzania must be taxed.
The containers arrived at the Dar es Salaam port in January this year with Makonda personally listed as owner of the goods in the shipping documents.
The Dar es Salaam RC is understood to have written to the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) to ask for a tax waiver, but his request was rejected.
In May this year, TRA released a public notice for goods that have overstayed at the Dar es Salaam port without taxes being paid and listed Makonda’s shipping containers among items that will be auctioned.
Friction between Makonda and cabinet ministers
The vocal Dar es Salaam chief voiced his discontent at TRA for attempting to auction his furniture, saying recently that anyone who purchased his goods will be “cursed by God.”
Mpango described Makonda’s remarks as “unfortunate” and insisted that the overstayed furniture shipment will be auctioned to recover unpaid taxes in accordance with the country’s tax laws.
“It is not right whatsoever to interfere with legal procedure. I would like to urge fellow leaders to observe the law and not overstep the bounds of authority,” he said.
“Our country must continue to be guided by the rule of law. The government’s instruction is that these furniture must be auctioned.”
Makonda is no stranger to controversy with cabinet ministers.
Last year, he publicly clashed with the then Minister for Information, Culture, Arts and Sports, Nape Nnauye, over an alleged night raid on a local radio station in Dar es Salaam.
Nnauye was sacked by President Magufuli just days after ordered an investigation into allegations that Makonda had overstepped his authority by entering a radio station at night with armed security men.
Members of parliament have also previously demanded disciplinary action against the Dar es Salaam RC for some of his remarks against MPs, while some opposition leaders have questioned the origin of his alleged oversized influence in government.
It remains to be seen how this latest spat will play out, but Mpango has been praised by several observers for standing up to his principles and upholding the law.
“MVP (most valuable politician) of the day in Tanzania is Dr Philip Mpango, the Minister of Finance,” Maria Sarungi Tsehai, a Dar es Salaam-based communications expert, said via Twitter.
“No threats or memos … Together we change Tanzania.”