By Lawrence Kilimwiko
Already excited key stakeholders both in government and development partners are calling for project extension and expansion of project activities countrywide.
At the very outset is that; in a number of project areas, timid, irresponsible, corrupt and unethical leaders are being shunted out of office or forced to payback stolen money.
A clear case is that of Ipinga village chairman in Luchelewa ward, Ruangwa district in Lindi region who returned Tsh 600,000 he had pocked dubiously from the village fund.
This was after being pinned down by villagers.
The “United for Our Rights” project was conceived and implemented collectively by three Non-Governmental Organizations – Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), Civics Education Teachers Association (CETA) and Actions for Democracy and Local Governance (ADLG) through a Tsh 2.5 billion (Euros 953,279) grant from the European Union with the objective of increasing citizen’s awareness of their rights, responsibility and entitlements and thus contributing to lowering corruption and enhance accountability and transparency in the localities.
The project covered 1055 wards in 40 districts spread across seven regions – Mara, Kagera, Simiyu, Geita, Lindi, Ruvuma and Coast with a combined population of 11 million people, which is 25 percent of Tanzania’s mainland total population.
Empowerment activities revolved around orientation of communities through civil society organisations, radio programmes aired through community based radio stations and training of local communities to monitor management of public money including their participation in decision- making processes and implementation of community development projects.
It ss well involved planting of trees in all 1,065 project wards. Mario Kayombo is Project Manager. According to her, over 2,000 trees were planted in each of project wards to symbolize anti- corruption drive across the seven regions.
As part of promoting transparency and accountability, local authorities are now being challenged to post income and expenditure in public notice boards, something unheard before.
“In the project area, citizen’s awareness of the rights, responsibility and entitlements has increased as over 70 percent of the survey respondents have indicated that they had been oriented and made aware of their rights and responsibilities,” says Theo Macha, a private consultant commissioned to assess the efficacy of the project after 30 months.
Citizens in the project areas, according to Macha, have learnt about their constitutional rights through public forums, mass gathering and radio programs aired through seven community based radio stations in the project areas. Equally important, the project has been instrumental in building capacities and advocating for good governance and on the war against corruption.
Examples are many. In Mara region’s Makoko fishing area along Lake Victoria where fishermen have always been victims of corrupt policemen and unethical local leadership are now bold enough to use PCCB’s hotline number- 113 to raise alarm.
The same story applies in Geita region where reportage of incidents of corruption to PCCB through the hotline number of physical visit to the anti-corruption body’s bureau offices has increased three fold.
In Lindi region, several elected village leaders have been held accountable for abuse of power and embezzlement of public money as exemplified by the Ipinga village chairman who was forced to refund village cash.
Likewise, people are now willing to make follow up of expenditure of public money meant for community development projects- notably school building, health centres and village go-downs. Equally important, people now understand the importance of having public offices closer to their localities and are willing to undertake construction work including construction of living quarters for VEOs (Village Executive Officers).
It is from such achievements that the both EU and KAS have expressed their willingness in rendering more support to the project while the government would like to see the project rolled throughout the country.
“ The European Union is committed to joint efforts with Tanzanian Government and to make a difference in supporting its industrialisation process,” says Simon Vanden Broeke, Head of Economics and Governance Section of the European Union Delegation to Tanzania and the East African Community.
“ The European Union and DFID will soon begin implementing a 15 million Euros programme called IMPACT, which stands for improving accountability through fighting corruption and increased access to justice”, adds the EU leader.
On his part, Daniel El- Noshokaty, KAS Country Resident Director has the following plead: “We as the Konrad Adenauer Foundation want to continue this fight and we will do so”.
The positive achievements in the project has also been acknowledge by the government with Josephat Kandege, Deputy Minister of State, President’s Office in –charge of Regional Administration and Local Government calling for its extension and expansion to the rest of the country.
Given that there are 185 local government authorities, it is important to expand the project coverage from the current seven regions to another 14 and eventually to the rest of the country, says Kandege noting that effects of corruption to the country’s political economy were massive.
“A water project, which should be built for Tsh 5 billion, through dubious deals ends up draining Tsh 10 billion! There is no value for money here”, Kandege says, explaining that corruption was levying a cruel tax on the national economy and fuelling poverty to people.
On the political front, according to the deputy minister, corruption can lead the government losing its political legitimacy in the public eyes something, which endangers national cohesion.
Interestingly, notwithstanding these achievements, concerns over six critical crises suffered by local governments in Tanzania raised by a Nordic team 24 years ago still persist.
In 1995 a Nordic team asserted that grassroots governance institutions in Tanzania were suffering from six kinds of crises- financial, decision-making, legitimacy, accountability and manpower.
The same crises were raised again during a project reflection workshop in Dodoma recently. Representatives from the seven project regions, expressed concern over shortage or absence of offices and office facilities/working tools for most the grassroots local governance institutions in the project areas to the extent that many of these leaders were completely unmotivated; something that drives them to solicit and take bribe to make ends meet.
A number of local governance institutions at ward, village, hamlet or street level have no offices and means of transport.
Equally important, there were cases in which a VEO is forced to cater for up to four villages without any means of transport, they observed.
The government has a duty to support these critical governance institutions by recruiting and deploying additional staff and addition to provision of working gear; especially means transport and working offices.
Another notable problem relates to lack of accountability on the part of elected local leaders to the electorates.
They cited, ward councillors who rarely takes their electorates’ concerns and priorities to decision- making bodies suggesting that such elected leaders should be held accountable.
But overall the most notable project achievements include empowerment of local CSOs that are in turn nurturing accountability culture in the communities thus making the monitoring of management of public funds from the demand side possible.
With the looming local government elections, it is crucial for electorates in the local communities to utilise their newly acquired civic power to go for performing candidates instead of those who give empty promises in order to show the power of their votes.
Lawrence Kilimwiko is a veteran journalist, Media and Communication Consultant based in Dar es Salaam: [email protected], +255-0754-321308