Storm over Sh1.5tr saga

Saturday April 21 2018
Govt pic

Dar es Salaam. The government sought to reassure Tanzanians yesterday that no budgeted funds have been stolen or spent in contravention of parliamentary approval procedures. This was after a barrage of comments appeared in the social media alleging that the money – which was part of the 2016/17 government budget – had been stolen or otherwise misappropriated by ‘persons unknown’.

The social media comments, which were later picked up and amplified by politicians, came after the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) had unearthed ‘unsupported expenditure’ of Sh1.5 trillion in the 2016/17 budget that needed explanation.

Speaking to reporters after the government audit report was tabled in Parliament for debate last week, Prof Mussa Assad said the audit had established that the government collected Sh25.3 trillion in the 2016/17 – but had spent only Sh23.79 trillion.

Asked about the discrepancy, Prof Assad said it was the duty of MPs to ask the government – elaborating that this is in accordance with the procedures used in calling for answers and explanations to audit queries raised by CAG’s office. The don repeated his answers in interviews with various mass media organs days later.

By way of explanation, deputy Finance minister Ashatu Kijaji said yesterday that the CAG ‘found’ the discrepancy because he had used the budget execution report when auditing. This shows that the government had until June 30, 2017 collected Sh25.3 trillion from tax and non-tax revenue sources, as well as loans and other budgetary resources. But, at the end of the day, it had spent only Sh23.79 trillion of the collected amount that financial year.

“Unfortunately the budget execution report had not recorded re-allocations that were made in accordance to ‘Exchequer issues’,” Dr Kijaji noted.

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She further said that other expenditures which CAG had not captured included Sh697.85 billion which the government had paid out as mature treasury papers; Sh687.3 billion ‘receivables,’ and Sh203.9 billion paid out to the Zanzibar government.

Later in the day, President John Magufuli weighed in on the issue. Visibly disappointed by the claims that the Sh1.5 trillion had been embezzled, Dr Magufuli urged the heads of law enforcement organs not to let individuals get away with spreading lies and rumours through social media outlets.

“Tanzanians believe everything that is posted in social media and, so, when people lie like that, it poses a danger to the country,” the President said soon after presiding over the swearing-in of nw’ judges at State House.

The President took the opportunity to reveal that he had taken pains to crosscheck with the CAG – Prof Assad – and the Treasury permanent secretary, Mr James Dotto, about the issue. In the event, both principal officials had assured and reassured him that no money had been embezzled.

The two officials were in the audience when President Magufuli made the remarks and he again pointedly asked them if any money had been stolen from the 2016/17 budget. Both gentlemen replied to the contrary: NO!

“You have heard for yourselves again. They say no money has been stolen. If that had happened, I would have fired the minister concerned immediately,” President Magufuli told his highly-attentive audience.

After Dr Kijaji’s explanation in the august House, the opposition parties Chadema, ACT-Maendelo and CUF nonetheless issued statements calling for a special investigation to establish the whole truth.