31 July 2011

Tanzania: New Battle on EPA Scandal

Dar Es Salaam — Donors are pressing the government to fully disclose the outcome of investigations into the Sh133 billion External Payment Arrears (EPA) account scandal and prosecute all culprits, The Citizen on Sunday can reveal.

According to documents seen by this newspaper, conclusion of the investigations into the scandal is among yardsticks donors intend to use in determining the level of future budgetary support to the government. About Sh133 billion was siphoned out of the EPA account, which was under the watch of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), and fraudulently paid to 22 companies in the 2005/6 financial year.

Fifteen people have been arraigned so far in connection with the scandal, but a number of questions remain unanswered.The government has been hard-pressed to explain why all those involved in the scam have not been prosecuted and provide proof of the Sh60 billion it says has been surrendered by suspects.

These are some of the queries regarding the scandal that are threatening the government's relations with donors as the two sides prepare to meet in September to review the progress in the war against corruption in Tanzania.

According to the documents, 12 countries and institutions involved in the General Budget Support (GBS) mechanism have outlined issues they want the government to address. Among them is a full update on the prosecution of EPA cases ahead of the September meeting and a detailed breakdown of the cash surrendered so far.

The donors also want the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to confirm that it is investigating in accordance with the law all cases where money has been returned.

Additionally, they are questioning the removal from the PCCB website of the National Governance and Corruption survey whose publication was ordered by President Jakaya Kikwete in June as the government held talks with donors. The report was, however, removed a few days later, and the donors insist that it be reposted on the website and its findings worked on otherwise they will consider that it has not been released as promised.

The report's findings and recommendations were meant to identify gaps in national responses to fighting corruption and facilitate better mechanisms to end the vice, including petty corruption, which has been cited as a serious hindrance to effective public service delivery.

The donors' demands follow the government's agreement to include specific outcomes in the war on corruption as a key factor in securing a balance of $100 million (Sh150 billion) in budgetary support for the 2011/12 and commitments for the next financial year. This amount would only be released subject to fulfillment of certain conditions other than corruption, including opening up infrastructure and fully embracing the private sector by removing policy and non-policy obstacles.

The GBS members are the African Development Bank, Canada, Denmark, European Union (EU), Finland, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and the World Bank.

Together, these donors are to provide $453 million (Sh678 billion) in budget support this financial year, the largest percentage of which is for development.

Asked if he was satisfied with progress on EPA investigations and cases that are pending in court and whether he worried about the donor demands, Finance and Economic Affairs minister Mustafa Mkulo said the government should be left to fulfill its part of the bargain. He said in a telephone interview from Dodoma that the agreement was only reached last month and it was too early to speak on progress made so far.

"We are still far away from the GBS review, but the government is working on its obligations without any pressure to meet some conditions," Mr Mkulo said, adding that relevant authorities were working on their respective dockets. He said he could not speak on their behalf.

The minister was, however, optimistic that budgetary commitments would not be interfered with. The Finance minister and a State House official are Tanzania's two link persons in the GBS dialogue.

Other than the war on corruption, the donors also want a timeline for tabling in Parliament of Bills and enactment of laws they seen as crucial in accountability and good governance. They are the Right to Information, Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act and the Whistleblowers Bills.

According to the donors, the assessment of the anti-corruption underlying process was "unsatisfactory" in the 2010 Performance Assessment Framework (PAF).

They warn that without meeting the agreed assessment criteria within the next few weeks, the underlying process will automatically be rated as "unsatisfactory" for the second year running.

Copyright © 2011 The Citizen. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 2,000 reports a day from more than 130 news organizations and over 200 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.