26 May 2017

Tanzania: Puzzle Begins to Unravel Over Mineral Thefts

Photo: Fadhili Akida/Daily News
President John Magufuli gets clarification from the chairperson of a committee formed to probe the contents in mineral sand Prof Abdulkarim Mruma, soon after receiving the report at the State House in Dar es Salaam. Looking on are Vice-President, Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan and Prime Minister, Mr Kassim Majaliwa.

A day after President John Magufuli ordered security organs to investigate parties involved in the mineral sand saga, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) and the Police are already on their toes implementing the directive.

President Magufuli issued the instruction on Wednesday following revelations of massive thieving within the mining sector, apparently engineered by a mining firm and dishonest officials from the Tanzania Minerals Audit Agency (TMAA), and others from its parent ministry of energy and minerals.

According to a probe team, formed by the Head of State himself last March -- to investigate thoroughly the amount of minerals present in the containers that were ready for export as 'nearworthless' copper concentrates - it's now emerging just how this country was losing "trillions in revenue" due to cheating.

The investigation report reveals that the mining firm declared the presence of precious metals selectively: gold, copper and silver as being present in its mineral sand exports; but it didn't declare the other precious metals within the (same) consignments.

The report by the eightman team led by Prof Abdulkarim Mruma indicates that there were many other minerals in the shipping containers which were not declared: sulfur, iron, iridium and titanium.

It was also found that the people involved in the whole saga then undertook to also under-invoice the exact amount of gold, copper and silver content in the containers.

In a swift response to the report, the Head of State fired the minister in charge of the minerals docket, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, dissolved the TMAA ministerial advisory board and suspended the agency's chief executive officer instantly.

PCCB said yesterday that they went to work immediately after receiving the President's directive.

The anti-graft body Director General, Mr Valentino Mlowola, told this paper in a telephone interview that the agency had since commenced investigating all employees under the state-run mineral audit agency and the energy ministry itself.

"The president was very clear in his directives ... and we're taking immediate and appropriate measures ... that's what we're doing right now," he said, briefly but declined further detail, asserting that divulging more on the issue would jeopardize the investigations.

On his part, the Police Commissioner for Operations and Training, Mr Nsato Marijani, observed that the task was allocated to all security organs, and that as police, they had since embarked on investigations, evoking an old cliché, to wit, "no stone is left unturned."

"What I can assure you is that something has been done regarding the situation," noted Commissioner Marijani. Earlier, the Police spokesperson, Ms Advera Bulimba, said the police force would be issuing "necessary information to public from time to time."

Meanwhile, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has urged the public to support President Magufuli on the decisions he made after receiving the mineral report in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday; saying all those efforts were for the public good, and not his personal betterment.

The party's national Secretary of Ideology and Publicity, Mr Humphrey Polepole, told reporters yesterday in Dar es Salaam that, for quite a long time, just few Tanzanians had been benefiting from the nation's natural resources, leaving the majority in poverty.

"You can imagine how much we've lost and how far we would have to go if there was no theft in minerals. The calculations showed that between 800bn/- and 1tbn/- has been lost on a monthly basis for the past 18 years running," he said.

He said the country has been losing more money, saying the calculation (1tril/-) were only based on 'stolen' gold; other Tanzanian minerals were also involved in theft.

He confirmed that the suspects behind the mineral thefts had even offered some 300bn/- in bribes to stop the follow-ups, saying: "How much do you think these people have been earning if they are now able to 'offer' such amount of money?"

However, Mr Polepole fell short of revealing the identity "who exactly offered the money ... or to whom.

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