LISTENING to the debate between local activists and World Bank officials led by Country Director, Philippe Dongier last week, one would think that informed citizens were grilling their representatives in government.
"The World Bank cannot be everywhere, hence, you need to work closely with Community-based organizations which work with the people at grass root levels where projects that you fund take place," argued Civil and Political Rights Watch (CPRW)'s Executive Director, Marcossy Albanie.
Mr Albanie plus several other CSO representatives from as far as Dodoma, convened in Dar es Salaam for a World Bank organized procurement clinic for media and civil society, grilled officials from the Breton Wood institution that failed projects do not deserve loan repayment by the government.
Citing an example of the 2003/10 Dar es Salaam Water Supply and Sewerage Project, Agenda Participation 2000 Executive Director, Moses Kulaba argued that loans paid for projects which are jointly implemented by the Bank and the government but failed to produce desired results, do not merit repayment.
The 164.6 million US dollars (over 266.7bn/-) DWSSP which ended in 2010 has failed to improve supply of the commodity, its billing system and the sewerage system and now activists want responsibility shared by both parties."We as a Bank simply lend to member governments and it is up to them to ensure that the money is invested productively, it is not the responsibility of the Bank to ensure that money is spent well," said Senior Financial Management Specialist, Mercy Sabai.
Ms Sabai took issue with the activists who seemed to put a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the World Bank to ensure that disbursed loans are invested fruitfully. "It's our role as Civil Society Organisations to hold the government accountable by sensitizing the people and not directing such responsibility to the Bank," argued Ms Sabai.
She said the DWSSP was rated as marginally satisfactory which several activists questioned its justification."To me this project is a failure and I wonder if the government has an obligation to repay," argued Kulaba who pointed out that it's necessary that the World Bank engages CSOs to ensure that feedback on implementation of projects is directly connected from the public.
Indeed problems of shortage of water supply, faulty billing of consumers and inadequate sewerage system are still there and in some cases very serious to an extent that Ubungo lawmaker, John Mnyika, had sought to table a private motion in parliament during the last ordinary session.But the problems are a result of years of negligence in investing in the infrastructure and upgrading of the system which was meant for not more than two million people but is actually serving over four million, according to Minister for Water, Professor Jumanne Maghembe who told parliament that a major project to solve the problem once and for all is coming.
"The problem of water in Dar es Salaam will be history in the next few years when this major project is implemented," said Prof Maghembe.
International partners who will take part in funding the project include World Bank, African Development Bank, Millennium Challenge Corporation and local counterpart funds. It is, therefore, important that the CSOs and World Bank initiative to monitor implementation of such projects using information communication technology is important.
"Sometimes back, there was such a monitoring system which one civil society organization started using modern telecommunication," said World Bank Country Director for Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda, Mr Philippe Dongier.Mr Dongier suggested to CSO representatives that the model which was known as Daraja and used text messaging in passing around information, would be replicated in the new proposed interactive mechanism to be agreed between the two parties.
"Maybe we may follow Twaweza monitoring model or any other one which will help hold service providers accountable," Mr Dangier pointed out saying he is sure that many people in government will support the initiative as Tanzania is signatory to an Open Government Initiative.The World Bank Director said it is frustrating that many developing countries receiving WB loans and grants do not invest the money fully to realize optimum benefits which undermines the whole principle of the Breton Wood support.
Activists warned the Bank against accepting government's intervention to sanction which CSOs should be included in the group that will regularly interact with them because it defies the logic of allowing competent activist groups which are in the bad books of authorities from participating."I don't think so because Tanzania sits on the board of Open Government Initiative along with South Africa from the African continent and this forum has obligations," argued Dangier who also dismissed calls from the CSOs to include an element of funding civil society in loans disbursed to governments to enable them monitor effectively what is being implemented on the ground.
According to World Bank Senior Procurement Specialist in Dar es Salaam, Donald Mneney said there are 23 projects in the country being financed by the WB worth 3billion US dollars and so far 1.6billion US dollars has been disbursed."These projects follow very strict World Bank procurement guidelines," said Mr Mneney who pointed out that to ensure that money is spent prudently, such projects are audited by Controller and Auditor General (CAG).
"The local procurement law has also been amended to make sure that it includes some of the key World Bank procurement regulations," pointed out Mr Mneney. Public procurement is one of the major areas where taxpayers' money finds its way into private individuals' pockets, hence, the World Bank wants to make sure that the 2004 Public Procurement Act prevents such embezzlement to occur.