Sunday, April 22, 2018

CAG report debate that refuses to die away

Ally Saleh

Ally Saleh 

By Ally Saleh

The debate on the Control and Auditor General (CAG) report is raging on. It has spreading in media and mainstream media.

The document is about government accounts for 2016/2017.

I have never seen such kind of a debate, hot as it is, but also very passionate with opposing views being aired with all the energy and being defended vigorously, depending on which side of the fence on the report one is standing.

The report is a constitutional and legal requirement being submitted to the government every April timing it to coincide with the Annual Budget Session being discussed in the National Assembly as a condition to check and consider previous accounts as means of accountability.

Why such huge interest in the CAG report this year? While CAG pointed out a lot of shortcomings in the way government accounting was being run, with overspending here and there, wastage here and there, spending without proper procedures and with no valid documentation to support the same, it was Sh1.5 trillion that sparked off curiosity.

What is about Sh1.5 trillion? The CAG did not categorically state anywhere in his report that that colossal amount of money was missing, but he indicated there was no correlation between the amount admitted by the government to have been collected and that was spent.

He said he could not trace the balance from the amount that was collected to match with what was spent.

This brought hot discussion in the public domain mainly triggered by Honourable Zitto Kabwe, an ACT Wazalando member of Parliament, who said not only should the government take responsibility for the missing amount but it should also offer public explanation on the where the taxpayers’ money went to.

In what has never happened before the government unleashed its huge machinery to defend itself from other parts of misuse, misallocation and spending out budgetary allocation by asking line ministers to answer CAG allegations.

When it came to the Sh1.5 trillion a statement was issued in Parliament and read by deputy Finance minister Ashatu Kijazi, who said it was all about false alarm being raised on the issue and saying the government collection and spending was in proper order.

It was something unusual, with CCM Publicity Secretary Humphrey Polepole, from the ruling party headquarters at Lumumba Street, Dar es Salaam, adding to the frantic defence of the government, which came to power on the banner of anti-corruption and thrift spending.

Many theories about the money have emerged, but we do not have time for them here, but suffice to say that this has been a shock much to the government and the general public. Some wanted to think probably the said missing amount would have been associated the out-of-budget spending by the government in many projects such as the standard-gauge railway, Stieigler’s Gorge power project, the Bombadier buying as well dishing out of huge amount of monies to a number of projects.

This is a wake-up call. It has come at a right time when members of the Parliament have been lamenting on the spending style by the government not associated with the finance culture in Tanzania in quest for development.

We also hope it will be a wake-up call as well that the national debt is reaching dangerous stages though once again the government denies saying it is still manageable, but with no firm control it will soon strangle Tanzanians.

Now as the dust slowly settles, but solution on the said missing Sh1.5 trillion not found and each side sticking to its stand, it will be the duty of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee to comb the government accounts to find the said amount – and probably only then Tanzanians can relax. Otherwise, the doubts will continue to roil, sending tongues wagging.