FORMER Finance Minister Basil Mramba maintained that he never took part in the process that led to the procurement of M/S Alex Stewart (Assayers) Government Business Corporation, which was contracted to conduct audit of minerals exploration in Tanzania.
"I have already stated my position that I was not involved in this transaction," the ex-Cabinet minister told a panel comprising Principal Resident Magistrates John Utamwa, Saul Kinemela and Sam Rumanyika at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam.He was being cross-examined by Principal State Attorney Osward Tibabyekomya in the case in which Mramba is charged alongside two other former senior government officials, Daniel Yona and Gray Mgonja, who were Minister for Energy and Minerals and Permanent Secretary with Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, respectively.
During the hearing session, the State Attorney referred Mramba to a minute written by Yona on May 11, 2003, which was addressed to the President, informing him on the progress of the discussions between his ministry, Finance, Bank of Tanzania (BoT) and the Attorney General (AG) on the procurement of the Gold Assayers Company.
The minute, which is part of exhibits in the case, shows that the president gave a go-ahead to the parties to proceed with the discussions on the matter.
But when asked whether he was involved in the discussions, Mramba had this to say: "That is what the minute says. I never participated in the discussions with the Minister for Energy and Minerals."
Mramba also took his time to explain why his ministry had granted tax exemptions to Alex Stewart Company. According to him, tax exemption was granted to the company through a Government Notice (GN) Number 422 of December 26, 2003 because the company had massive investments on processing plants.
He told the court that such tax exemption was granted after considering public interests to the nation and the need of having a gold assayers company in Tanzania, following several complaints from stakeholders that the government was not getting the revenue it deserved in the mineral sector."The procurement of the gold assayers enabled the government to know exactly how much minerals were being explored, exported and the actual amount of revenue that it would get," he said.
Mramba, however, agreed with the prosecution that at the time he issued the GN in question, the Cabinet had not been informed of the contract the government was to enter with Alex Stewart Company. He said the Cabinet was briefed on the contract in February 2004.In the case, the three former government officials are charged with abuse of office and occasioning 11bn/-loss to government.
It is alleged that they committed the offences between August 2002 and June 14, 2004 in Dar es Salaam, by giving preferential treatments to M/S Alex Stewart (Assayers) Government Business Corporation.