Dodoma — A REPORT on the whereabouts of 36 Iranian ships registered by a Dubai-based firm to fly Tanzanian flags has been submitted to Zanzibar government which will soon act accordingly.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Bernard Membe, told the National Assembly here that one of the country's friendly nations investigated the matter and presented its report to Zanzibar government.
"It is likely that the Zanzibar government will deregister the ships after thoroughly studying the report and also disband the Dubai-based firm which licensed them," Mr Membe said.
He said Zanzibar President, Dr Ali Mohammed Shein plans to establish another company soon. Meanwhile, there will be no prosecution of any individuals in the country linked to inflated price of an aviation radar system with military capabilities from BAE systems of Britain over a decade ago.
The Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Mathias Chikawe, said much as the government would wish to prosecute some people locally, it is impossible as a British judge closed the case when he ruled that BAE Systems pay penalty for overcharging the government for the radar.
"This issue was discussed right here last year but it is amazing that the matter has resurfaced today, let us close this chapter and move on because even if we want to prosecute local culprits, there will be no co-operation from the UK and BAE systems," argued Mr Chikawe. Lawmakers across the political divide challenged Mr Membe to name culprits in the controversy which was linked to a 12 million US dollars bribery.
"It is sad that some of the culprits have been given positions of authority by this parliament," said Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mr Ezekiel Wenje, while debating the budget. Mr Wenje said despite evidence of corruption as investigated by British Serious Fraud Office, no local culprits have been booked while government has cherished change money from the overpriced radar.
Meanwhile, conduct of the country's honorary consuls in France, Italy and the Netherlands in issuing visas illegally and counselling the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to sell its office building in Amsterdam came under the spotlight in Parliament.
Presenting Parliamentary Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Committee report over the ministry's operations, Special Seats Member of Parliament, Ms Betty Machangu (CCM) and Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Ezekia Wenje said while the country's envoys are struggling, some consuls are collecting visa fees using stamped models other than official visa stickers.
"It's unclear whether money collected by these honorary consuls in Niece in France and Milano in Italy and Netherlands is remitted to the government," said Ms Machangu who advised the ministry to reject advice given by the Netherlands based consuls to sell the office building.
"It is important that we reinstate our ambassador to the Netherlands where we have office space because there is a lot of potential to help the country earn economically," she argued. Statistics from Department of Immigration shows that some 50,000 visas are issued in the Netherlands annually hence the Parliamentary Committee argued that with an estimated earning of over 2.5 million US dollars per year, it is important to reopen the embassy.
Debating the ministry's budget, Mr Wenje said it is time that the country strengthens diplomatic missions with the idea of pursuing economic diplomacy policy. "Over the past 50 years, we have opened several diplomatic missions including 20 embassies, three consular offices, two international trade offices and 17 honorary consuls.
In addition, the government through the ministry owns 90 buildings abroad including 22 offices, 20 diplomatic residences and 48 foreign workers' residences, the opposition wants to know what is the state of these assets?" Wenje asked. Tabling his ministry's budget estimates, Minister Membe said during this fiscal year, three consular offices in Turkey, the United States, China and Democratic Republic of Congo were opened.
"These new offices will despite being operated cheaply, increase visa earnings and tourists arrivals," Mr Membe said. While requesting the Parliament to sanction over 98.33bn/- with a target of collecting over 16.8bn/- from various sources mainly visa fees from diplomatic missions abroad, the Foreign Affairs Minister lamented the dwindling budget allocations to his ministry.
Lack of a separate vote to back the government's new economic diplomacy policy has thrown the country's diplomatic missions abroad in disarray while embassies are struggling with lack of qualified personnel, aged office buildings and a backlog of debts. He asked Minister Membe to explain why the country's envoy to Russia is housed in a leaking building which recently collapsed.
"In China, three cars which belong to the embassy were made in 2001 which violates the host country's laws on age of cars allowed to operate in the capital," Mr Wenje noted while stressing that it's time that more emphasis is placed on economic other than dependency diplomacy.
Underscoring the importance of China to Tanzania's economic success, the Chadema lawmaker for Nyamagana pointed out that the country's embassy employees are struggling with the ministry's bureaucracy which has delayed payments of salaries, allowances, fees for their children and in some cases house rent. "Unfortunately in this budget speech, there is no allocation made to give this embassy (China) to repair the leaking building," Mr Wenje noted.