Government now seeks to kill off international ‘arbitration’ option

12Sep 2018
Getrude Mbago
The Guardian
Government now seeks to kill off international ‘arbitration’ option

PROPOSED amendments to legislation covering Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) have been tabled in parliament seeking to ensure that all disputes arising from government contracts with private entities are conclusively dealt with by Tanzanian courts and not international arbitration bodies.

Finance and Planning Minister Dr Phillip Mpango.

If approved by the country’s highest policy-making organ, the Public Private Partnership (Amendment) Bill of 2018 will give the government powers to oversee the implementation of policy, laws and regulations governing its engagement with private players in various development projects.

Tabling the bill for its second reading in the House yesterday, Finance and Planning Minister Dr Phillip Mpango said it aims to amend gaps on the existing law for better and smoother implementation of ongoing and future PPP projects under the country’s overall development plan.

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.

“The major objective of this bill is to address these challenges facing implementation of PPP projects…the amendments will increase efficiency in planning, decision-making, and approval of these projects,” he stated.

Among the recommendations put forward for inclusion in the amended version of the law is one that says all PPP contracts should be firstly approved by the Attorney General (AG) before final endorsement by the PPP steering committees.

It is also proposed that the national investment committee should be removed from the process of approving PPP projects in order to reduce the number of authorities entrusted with supervisory roles in the projects.

The minister responsible for national financial issues is also to be given the power to approve some special projects designed by the private sector without passing through normal competitive tender procedures.

According to Dr Mpango: “Accounting officers will also be allowed to approve small-scale PPP projects after being directed by the responsible minister.”

The bill also aims to amend Cap 7 (3) of the Budget Act so as to include PPP projects in the government’s annual budget and enable public institutions to consider PPP projects when preparing their own budgets.

Parliamentary budget committee chairman George Simbachawene offered the committee’s backing of the bill, telling the House that the amendments should help fast-track the implementation of various PPP projects in the country.

“The bill has taken up all the views aired by various stakeholders, especially this committee… this is commendable as it touches sensitive areas of our country’s development,” Simbachawene said.

But the opposition camp spokesperson on budgetary matters, Halima Mdee, faulted the amendments saying they appear set to squeeze 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 asserted.

On Monday, parliament passed amendments to the Statistics Act of 2015 that make it a criminal offence to publish official statistics including survey findings without explicit authorization from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The Written Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2018 criminalizes publication of statistics that have not been approved by the government’s statistician general.

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