Yes, PCCB should focus more on corruption instead of debts

02Apr 2021
The Guardian
Yes, PCCB should focus more on corruption instead of debts

VARIOUS interest groups in the country had their talking points on what President Samia Suluhu Hassan said earlier this week while receiving the annual reports of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).


The president aptly noted that while the country was still in a state of mourning, public activities must go on – and, the two reports must be received ahead of the upcoming Budget debate in the National Assembly.

Doing so will provide a clear background on accountability in most areas of the public sector and what the government is doing about it. In the circumstances, it couldn’t have waited any further.

Among the points that the president raised with PCCB was on the specific observation Director General Brig Gen John Mbungo had made before the audience – that the bureau was helping to solve cases where public organisations were not being paid their dues.

This was especially the case when the debtor is another public organisation, as private firms can more easily be dealt with if a public agency appeals to court.

President Samia urged the organisation to focus on issues involving bribes and miscarriage of justice, or loss of public resources or funds by that kind of transaction, not helping to solve particular organisations’ debt problems.

The president was pointing out an obvious anomaly in the conduct of PCCB activities, as that comes to imputing motives for not paying a debt and then acting on the hunch.

Still, this PCCB innovation could be grasped in a certain light, in the sense that taking a public agency to court over money owed to another public agency may not meet with the criteria that any such claimant organisation would have to meet.

In the first place, only a person in his or her private capacity is taken to court on criminal charges, in which case the claimant organisation needs an external agency to conduct the prosecution, thus seeking to apply economic sabotage prosecution to such issues.

The president did not actually direct the matter to the Finance and Planning ministry, but it is important for the Treasury via the Paymaster General (the Permanent Secretary to the Treasury) to take note of all debts public organisations owe one another.

Where the normal consulting machinery is still in operation, it can be left at that point. However, where it is a non-starter, some other corrective action is possible – such as swapping debts or absorbing them into the Budget, or deducting the respective amounts from subsequent estimates. PCCB has simply no such capacity.

There are also cases of the government disowning debts, as applied to TANESCO bills in respect of which former president Dr John Magufuli allowed the state-owned monopoly to disconnect electricity wherever there was evidence of drawn-out failure or refusal to pay up.

So, indeed, PCCB should continue with the good work it is credited with but by ensuring that it lives up to its name as a public watchdog agency charged with preventing and combating corruption.

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