Tanzania Daily News (Dar es Salaam)

Tanzania: Go That Extra Mile, President Kikwete

PRESIDENT Jakaya Kikwete is reported as lavishing praise on the media in Tanzania. The occasion was the Open Government Partnership (OGP) meeting in Brasilia, Brazil, recently.

The meeting -- which brought together scores of top-notch world leaders, including Heads of State and Government -- heard Kikwete say on Apr. 18 that the media in Tanzania has helped his "Government and Parliament to execute their business in a more transparent manner, and in the public interest." [DailyNews: April 19, 2012]. Kikwete was quoted as saying the Govt.

Controller & Auditor-General (CAG) has been performing salutarily as a veritable source of 'news' and other subjects-matter for dissemination and debate across Tanzania and beyond.

How True! But, more on that anon... Indeed this -- coming from the nation's Number One Citizen, who also doubles as Head of State & Government -- is acknowledgement enough by the highest echelons in Govt. of the sensitive and onerous role played in Society by mass media organs.

It's extremely rare that members of the mass media fraternity and the organs behind them receive praise from the 'other three' Branches of Govt.

These are the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary -- it generally being accepted that the Mass Media is increasingly becoming the Fourth Estate of the Realm in truly-independent and free countries! It's gratifying to 'hear' the president tell his audience abroad that Tanzania is "one of the countries in the world that enjoy media independence."

As it is, Tanzania boasts around "a dozen 'Dailies;' scores of 'Weeklies' and 'Monthlies,' and hundreds of magazines," President Kikwete stated, adding that it's also home to "over 100 TV and radio stations located in various parts of the country -- and all of which operate independently." Citing cases as proof of this freedom and independence, Kikwete sought to demonstrate that "even Government-owned Media Houses are critical on the conduct of Government -- and it's never complained or intervened!"

As if that weren't enough in terms of positive developments on the part of the Govt., the president further revealed that the extant media legislation is being reviewed.

The overall objective is to have a law that's "in line with OGP regulations." Fair enough. There was much, much more than that in the President's address to that august OGP meeting in Brazil -- and at which the man assured his compeers that "efforts to run Tanzania transparently have always been part of the country's development strategy."

For example, Kikwete said, the Parliament -- of which the president is part and parcel -- has been performing effectively as a watchdog over Govt. activity (and inactivity?), without being obstructed by interventions from the Executive and/or the Judiciary. Parliamentary debate is open, broadcast on TV and radio, and is reported in the print media as a matter of course. The National Assembly routinely sets up Select Committees as and when necessary to probe issues it deems fit.

Parliament also has put in place multiparty sectoral Standing Committees on crucial national issues, including finances in the Central and Local Governments, as well as parastatal organizations... Then there're specialized national organizations. These include -- but aren't limited to -- the National Accounting Office (NAO/CAG); the Prevention & Combat of Corruption Bureau (PCCB), and the Tanzania Chapter of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (T-EITI).

However, it's all very well having a proliferation of watchdogs in place -- including, of course, mass media organs! Generally, they've all been doing sterling service, playing the essential good governance role of exposing the rot in public institutions regardless. But, that's only part of the story; and it's not enough... Appropriate action on their findings/recommendations is rarely taken promptly enough by the Executive. Where legal action is initiated, it takes ages in the judicial systems -- thus virtually denying Justice via technically-lengthy delays.

Examples are legend, including cases of the External Payment Arrears (EPA) looting at the central Bank of Tanzania... The latest examples are the scandalous findings of the CAG and parliamentary finance/accounts Committees regarding billions of shillings in misappropriated/ misapplied public funds involving several Govt.

Ministries, Departments and Agencies. If not acted upon promptly, transparently and decisively for the punitive and deterrent values inherent in such action, then the scandal is bound to have a negative, counterproductive impact on good governance in Tanzania -- its OGP and TEITI memberships notwithstanding!

That's why we implore President Kikwete to go that extra mile: act promptly and decisively on reports of the mass media, CAG, T-EITI, PCCB and its other 'right arms,' so to speak as and when they'refiled. Cheers!

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