Bunge committee members quit en masse over bribery allegation

23Mar 2016
Dickson Ng`hily
The Guardian
Bunge committee members quit en masse over bribery allegation

THE entire parliamentary standing committee on social services has resigned to pave the way for an investigation into allegations published in a local tabloid that committee members were offered “a bag of cash” by the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), ostensibly as a bribe.

job ndugai

The committee’s deputy chairperson, Raphael Chegeni, confirmed the en masse resignations in Dar es Salaam yesterday, saying they all felt offended by what appeared to be outright allegations of corruption against them.

“We (committee members) have all signed the petition to resign. At least two of us (Zitto Kabwe and Hussein Bashe) have already submitted formal resignation letters to the Speaker (of the National Assembly),” Chegeni said.

According to the newspaper report cited by the Busega (CCM) legislator, the committee had sent one of its members to the NHIF offices to collect what was termed as “a package” meant for the committee’s scrutiny.

The committee member is said to have been offered a paper bag full of cash, which she rejected for ethical reasons. But according to the newspaper report, when she briefed fellow committee members of what had transpired, they blamed her for “letting them down.”

“They therefore asked her not to mention the incident to any one outside the committee, saying they would ensure they got the (NHIF) money anyway,” said Chegeni, quoting the report.

He said the committee couldn’t continue performing its duties until the matter has been cleared up once and for all.

“We (committee members) have agreed that, one, the Speaker should launch an investigation into the truth of the allegations, which in fact should help clear this mess. Secondly, in case there is any truth, then appropriate legal action should be taken,” Chegeni asserted.

The office of the Speaker should also summon the editors of the newspaper that published the story in order to hear their side of the matter, he said, adding: “Most of the members of this committee are from the opposition camp… how is it that we just mess up?”

Members of the 24-strong committee members who are said to have resigned include Chegeni, Zitto, Bashe, Dr Charles Tizeba, Joseph Mbilinyi, Kasuku Bilango, Lucia Mlowe, Dr Jasmine Tiisekwa, Jacqueline Msongozi, Mussa Zungu, Juma Nkamia, and Josephine Gezabuke.

Others are Peter Selukamba, Margaret Sitta, Dr Faustine Ndungulile, Dr Ely Macha, Susan Lyimo, Seleman Bugara, Nape Nnauye, Anasazia Wambura, Ummy Mwalimu, Dr Hamis Kingwangalla, Prof Joyce Ndalinacho and Eng Stella Manyanya.

Both Zitto and Bashe confirmed their resignations when contacted by The Guardian, saying the matter has tarnished the image of the entire parliament and themselves as individuals.

They said they had informed the Speaker that they were not ready to work with any parliamentary committee under such circumstances.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Job Ndugai has reshuffled the parliamentary committees in what is termed as normal procedure as per parliamentary standing orders.

The reshuffle sees Chegeni moved from the social services committee to that of foreign affairs, while another member of the accused committee - Margaret Sitta - was shifted to the parliamentary committee on administration.

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