According to minister Medard Kalemani, the minister’s total budget proposal for the year amounts to 1.6 trillion/-, out of which at least 700bn/- is to be set aside for the much-touted power project aimed at ending Tanzania’s power supply problems once and for all.
Presenting the ministry’s budget proposal in the august House here yesterday, Dr Kalemani said the project will formally begin in July this year with main dam spillways and water tunnels to be constructed in the first three months.
He explained that all tender evaluation processes were completed during the 2017/18 financial year now winding up, and the next fiscal year (2018/19) will be all about implementation.
“The 700bn/- will come from internal sources. Last November we started the construction of the KV 33 line from Dakawa that will be used to transport electricity needed at the project site,” said Dr Kalemani.
The project has garnered much criticism from environmental activists and lobby groups over its potentially negative impact on the famed Selous wildlife ecosystem which qualifies the reserve to be a recognised UNESCO World Heritage site.
Members of parliament have also recently added their voices to the concerns raised, with some pointing to what they say is the absence of a proper environmental impact assessment (EIA) report on the project before it takes off.
But President Magufuli for one has continued to insist that the project’s potential positive gains - in terms of vastly improving the country’s electricity output and supply capacity - far outweigh the negative, thus the decision to go ahead with it remains irreversible.
Meanwhile, presenting its views on the ministry’s budget proposals, the parliamentary committee on Energy and Minerals expressed concern over delayed payments for tender winners currently implementing the rural electrification programme due to a new payment system endorsed by the government of the day.
According to committee chairperson Dustan Kitandula, the new system bars the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) from paying the contractors straight out of the rural electrification fund, and instead send such payment requests to the Ministry of Energy for onward transmission to the Treasury, which will then take any action.
Kitandula said the committee had established that despite submitting their payment requests since August last year, just a few of the contractors were eventually paid after much delay, while the rest had still not been paid by March this year.
“The new system of payment verifications has had the impact of making REA break its agreements with the contractors on the payment periods,” he stated.
Various MPs who debated the ministry’s budget also decried what they called the ‘bad’ situation that the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) currently finds itself in.
According to Ester Bulaya (Bunda – CHADEMA), TANESCO is currently generating less revenue than what it is paying to debtors. The government should devise a way of saving the power utility company from this situation, Bulaya said.
Maftah Nachuma (Mtwara - CUF) called for legal action to be taken against TANESCO officials who are hiking the prices of electric poles up to 500,000/- each, which he said is hardly affordable for the common wananchi.