Tanzania: Corruption Is a Huge Enterprise Not Even a Pandemic Can Stop It


In neighbouring Uganda, some members from the opposition have alleged fraud and corruption in how funds for the needy are disbursed. Some claim that the majority of beneficiaries have ties to the ruling NRM party. Others say no one in their areas has received any of these funds despite official records showing otherwise. One MP claimed that it has reached a point where a person has to pay to qualify being needy enough to earn the Covid relief funds.

The government has denied such claims.

On the other end, there are those who have made fortunes by cheating many people. Ugandan media reported of hundreds of people who received fake Covid-19 vaccines. The authorities there said this went on for more than a month.

In Kenya, another neighbour to the North, a new report by the Human Rights Watch says only a small fraction of families in need in Nairobi benefited from funds set aside to help them during the ongoing pandemic. The report says this programme which was later discontinued 'lacked transparency and was characterized by cronyism, nepotism and outright favouritism'.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proved to be an opportunity to some. Those with the right brains and well placed to sniff out legitimate opportunities have been rewarded with financial gains. There are those who have become billionaires.

The same pandemic has also proved to be a winner to those who can spot the gaps in our systems. Those who are better placed, and with the right political connections have also made a kill. Scandal after scandal of funds being misused or simply going missing.

These people spot opportunities in a crisis from very different ends.

This is not limited to the ongoing pandemic. This country has a long and tortuous history of the many energy crises in the past which turned into gold mines for those with the right connections. They left a long list of mega corruption scandals which were never fully concluded and in some of these scandals even the names of those who are allegedly involved in these dubious deals were never disclosed.

It was the same story with the minerals mined in different parts of the country. As the government rushed to liberalize the economy, those in the know laid their plans and became rich. The dubious contracts which the government entered into left the many communities around these mines very poor and alienated.

In all these countless scandals, the names associated with them were very well placed, politically connected and some were titans in their own right.

It is the same story with areas which are planned to be redeveloped. There are countless stories of those with money rushing to hoard up land by buying it cheaply only to be compensated fortunes.

The reports from the Controller and Auditor General year after another point to the many cracks and gaping holes where money disappears into or is misspent with poor explanations or justifications.

The government is in the process of getting vaccines through donations and through using our own means. The other countries in the region have shown what should not be done to avoid wasting much needed funds and protecting people from potential health risks of taking fake vaccines.

After all, we are a society that holds much of anything if we are told it would solve this or that problem. All sorts of traditional healers to others who claim to provide answers to our health challenges are spread across the country.

The government should push for more awareness campaigns regarding Covid-19 vaccines, after all media reports suggest that various vaccines could be imported. That is a potential pitfall for misinformation, which could lead to disaster.

Even with the benefit of hindsight from our neighbours, we may still find ourselves confronting the same issues and failing. Few months down the line we may still end up with the same stories of the privileged few jumping the proverbial queue and the daredevils making millions through dubious deals.

Corruption is such a huge enterprise, not even a global pandemic can make it fail.

Mr Mwakibete is a socio-economic and political commentator and analyst based in Dar es Salaam.

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