THE Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism has asked the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) to investigate officials of the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa), reported to be engaged in corruption, which includes conniving to sabotage local investors in favour of personal interests.
The ministry says that it would take action against the Tanapa board of directors allegedly for making decisions that have consequences on the country's economy and sanctioning initiatives that do not give priority to indigenous investors in the tourism industry.
The move follows Tanapa's decision to suspend a local tour operator, Ahsante Tours, for failure to pay its debt with the organization. However, the government has challenged the step arguing that wisdom should have prevailed and the debt payment rescheduled since the investor employs 600 people and pays two million US dollars in park fees to Tanapa each year.
The tour operator had 3,000 tourists already booked for the year. Deputy Minister Lazaro Nyalandu, said in Dar es Salaam that Tanapa had recently suspended the tours company from having access to any national park for failure to service a debt.
This, Mr Nyalandu said, was one of the many cases in which Tanapa officials have been reported to have mistreated indigenous investors in the industry. "Complaints of mistreatment of indigenous investors in this industry come to our offices every day. I and my minister, Ambassador Khamis Kagasheki, have looked into this matter and thought out how such acts would affect the entire industry.
"It is now evident that there are some Tanapa officials who are sabotaging the institution and guarding their personal interests. The government will not tolerate any of them. We will take both legal and disciplinary actions."
He said that on November 23, this year, the company's founding directors, Mr Cuthberth Swai and Ms Stella Swai, went to his office to complain against Tanapa's decision to prevent their Moshibased company from sending tourists to national parks due to a debt they owed the institution.
The decision was made on November 17. "The investors explained that their company pays Tanapa some two million US dollars every year in park fees and is the second leading company in climbing tourists up Mount Kilimanjaro and has employed 600 people," he said.
They further explained that in 2010 they borrowed 1.3m dollars from TIB in order to complete construction of Weru Weru River Lodge in Kilimanjaro Region, which is one of the leading hotels. But due to the global financial crunch, which prompted many tourists to cancel their earlier booked tours last year, Ahsante tours agreed with Tanapa for the institution to loan the company some 70,000 dollars, a debt that they have been servicing monthly.
They have so far paid 31,000 dollars remaining with a balance of 39,000 dollars which they failed to pay for two consecutive months, when some tourists cancelled their visits due to the recent Uamsho violence in Zanzibar. The ministry had asked the two sides - the company and Tanapa - to sit down and resolve the matter amicably.