Economic Crimes Act up for review, altering

29Apr 2021
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Economic Crimes Act up for review, altering
  • Plea bargaining should be done in open court, MP suggests

​​​​​​​THE Law Review Commission is doing the groundwork for review of the Economic and Organized Crime (Control) Act and five other criminal laws, the legislature was told yesterday.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Prof Palamagamba Kabudi.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister Prof Palamagamba Kabudi told the House that the move is aimed at decongesting the country’s overcrowded prisons and save money spent in running overburdened correctional facilities.

Other criminal laws up for review are the Prisons Act (Cap 58), the Criminal Procedure Act (Cap 20), the Community Service Act (Cap 291), Parole Boards Act (Cap 400) and the Minimum Sentences Act (Cap 90).

“The Law Review Commission is drafting two reports on evaluation of instituting alternative punishments,” he said.

Tabling budget estimates for the next financial year, Prof Kabudi said the commission is also working on suggested law changes aimed at revamping earnings from the tourism sector.

These proposals come up following reports that prison facilities are still overcrowded by thousands despite various measures over the years to reduce the numbers.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Khamis Chilo told the  House early this month that up to the end of last month there were 33,473 inmates out of whom about 16,735 had been sentenced to prison terms and 16,738 are remandees. The country’s prisons are supposed to accommodate up to 29,902 inmates as a whole, he stated, implying that there is an excess population of 3,671 persons in jail.

As for legal reforms aimed at giving tourism sector a shot in the arm, Prof Kabudi said the laws slated for review include the Tourism Act (Cap 65), the Wildlife Conservation Act (Cap 283), the National Parks Act (Cap 282), the National Museum of Tanzania Act (Cap 281), the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Act (Cap 284) and the Antiquities Act (Cap333).

The reviews are aimed at improving revenue collection from the tourism sector, and uplifting of the conservation of attractions to make them sustainable, he said.

The Attorney General’s office and that of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) are working on reforming plea bargaining in line with provisions of the Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act, number 11 of 2019.

“From July 2020 to March 2021, about 192 cases were resolved though plea bargaining after the accused persons admitted their offences and paid the government 35.073bn/-” he stated, noting that the monies collected through plea bargaining are deposited in a special account at the Bank of Tanzania.

Debating the ministry’s estimates, MPs demanded a review of the anti-economic sabotage and anti-money laundering laws, which they said were being used to torment and harass innocent people.

The laws were passed on the basis of goodwill but their enforcement has seen scores of individuals being remanded and denied bail, demanding the Law Reform Commission to look again into their provisions.

Joseph Tadayo (Mwanga) said there are complaints from Tanzanians over the laws, saying many people have been slapped with accusations of serious crimes they have not committed.

“A person is taken to court and is denied bail just because the Director of Public Prosecution does not wish that he gets bail. A law is not above the constitution; these people should be given bail,” he said.

Agnesta Kaiza (Special Seats, Chadema) said there are large numbers of people in the country’s prisons not due to the crime rate but because investigation takes time and the cases are not worked upon timely.

“Another thing is slapping people with offences which they did not commit. And since there are difficulties in getting bail, many are rotting in jail on minor offences.”

Salome Makamba (Special Seats) said the way plea bargaining agreements between the DPP and the accused is negotiated torments people, urging the formation of a commission to work on the matter.

Plea bargaining should not be conducted in a closed environment between the DPP and the suspect but it should be conducted in an open court, she demanded.

Godwin Kunambi (Mlimba) said the two laws have been tormenting people with many being grabbed off their money through a plea bargaining system which is not transparent.

“If the DPP’s office fails to correctly perform its duties, then the whole justice system is compromised. I know a number of people who have suffered due to the said laws,”   he declared.

Citing repression on account of the laws, Kunambi said in his constituency some farmers were arrested for taking tractors into a nearby national park, and they were remanded on charges of economic sabotage.

"They are in custody until now and they were simply found in the national park. DPP help us about this law...seriousness is needed on this matter," he added.

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