AG defends amendments to PPP law endorsed by Bunge

13Sep 2018
Getrude Mbago
DODOMA
The Guardian
AG defends amendments to PPP law endorsed by Bunge

THE government yesterday defended its move to seek amendments to the law to cancel out international arbitrations in cases of contractual disputes with private companies, saying most foreign-based investor firms are biased and do not act in the best interests of developing countries.

Attorney General Dr Adelardus Kilangi.

Attorney General Dr Adelardus Kilangi told parliament here that Tanzania’s own judicial system is better placed to resolve such disputes than the many international arbitration bodies out there.

“The systems in most of these international arbitration courts are not clear and open… this usually means justice is denied in most cases brought to them involving developing countries,” AG Kilangi said while winding up parliamentary debate on the government’s proposed amendments to the Public Private Partnerships (PPP) Act.

Under the proposed amendments which were approved by the National Assembly later yesterday, all negotiations and legal disputes pertaining to PPP agreements shall henceforth be handled locally.

Kilangi was responding to concerns raised by the opposition camp’s spokesperson on budgetary matters, Halima Mdee, who asserted that the amendments appear aimed at squeezing the rights and freedoms of investors to seek redress for claims of contractual breaches by the government in “neutral” courts outside the country.

“Although they may love our local courts, investors usually prefer to file such claims for redress with legal entities that are more neutral, and we don’t have those kind of courts in our country,” Mdee had stated.

According to AG Kilangi, a global debate is currently underway on international laws governing foreign investment matters, with most developing countries not happy with how things stand at present.

“As a nation, we (Tanzania) have made a heroic decision. Very few countries are able to do as we have done. We have improved our own court systems, so there should be no worries over the fairness of the rulings they make,” he said.

He asserted that “as the main financer of most investment projects in Tanzania”, the World Bank ultimately controls the international arbitration bodies as well. “And so as a country, we have decided not to support these bodies,” he stressed.

Earlier, while debating the bill for the amendments, several members of parliament raised concern that they could end up chasing investment away from the country, thus negatively affecting national development goals.

Tarime Rural MP John Heche (CHADEMA) and Malindi MP Ally Saleh (CUF) said the government should try to create and maintain a conducive environment to attract more investors, rather than introduce legislation that may only scare such investors.

However, Kibakwe MP George Simbachawene (CCM) expressed uncertainty over the patriotism of MPs who find fault with the amended legislation, suggesting that they appear to have no good intentions for their own country.

Tabling the bill for its second reading in the House on Tuesday, Finance and Planning Minister Dr Phillip Mpango said the amendments were aimed at plugging gaps in the existing law for better and smoother implementation of ongoing and future PPP projects in the country.

According to Dr Mpango, the current law has a number of such gaps that tend to thwart the progress of various development projects in the country. “These amendments will increase efficiency in planning, decision-making, and approval of these projects,” he stated.

Among the newly-approved amendments, all PPP contracts will now have to be firstly approved by the AG before final endorsement by PPP steering committees.

Also, the minister responsible for finance now has the power to approve some special projects designed by the private sector without passing through normal competitive tender procedures.