Dar es Salaam. After a very hot debate on the Tegeta escrow account in the National Assembly in Dodoma last month, Members of Parliament reached a compromised situation and drew up parliamentary resolutions that were then forwarded to President Jakaya Kikwete for implementation. Among the eight resolutions, one recommends to the president to remove from office Attorney General Frederick Werema, the Minister for Energy and Minerals, Prof Sospeter Muhongo, and his permanent secretary Eliakim Maswi for failing to exercise due diligence in dealing with the Tegeta escrow account.
What is this due diligence that seemed to cost dearly these big shots in Kikwete’s government? From the context of this saga, which was highly noted by members of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) under the chairmanship of Kigoma North MP Zitto Kabwe, it means not only that someone does their job well, but also doing it with reasonable care. Thus, due diligence means an obligation to do work reasonably well, something PAC convinced the Parliament that the above named civil servants lacked it when were dealing with the Tegeta escrow account.
Other civil servants, who were also implicated in the same scandal like Prof Anna Tibaijuka and two High Court Judges and many others were alleged to directly benefit from the money kept in that account although were not implicated in decision-making on that account. But why were they given such a big amount of money, remains the issue to be investigated by the responsible authorities.
We may all agree that, these public servants must go due to lack of due diligence, but why and how they did they fail to exercise due diligence in such a sensitive issue that involved billions of shillings? These people were trusted by our President to serve us in such high public offices. Did they not know that due diligence was one of the important elements in discharging their duties? No doubt that AG Werema is a lawyer and his profession is normally referred to as a noble profession and we can’t think that he does not know what doing something with due diligence means. Prof Muhongo, being a philosopher, claims to be a man of high integrity. Why then does he lack due diligence?
At prima facie, these servants lack integrity. Had they been persons of integrity, they would not have discharged their duties without due diligence, knowing that their decisions could plunge the nation into big losses and lose reputation before the international community and our development partners as it has turned out to be the case. To my knowledge, integrity is everything. Without integrity no one can perform his duties with due diligence. We cannot develop as a nation for the common good if our public leaders in such high positions cannot exercise due diligence in whatever they are doing.
What is integrity then? From Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, Integrity includes: 1. the quality of always behaving according to the moral principles that someone believes in, so that people respect and trust him; 2. the quality of behaving according to the rules and standards of your job or profession; 3. the quality of being complete or whole, without any missing part; 4. uprightness, honesty, and sincerity.
However, other literature sources define integrity precisely as: “that one keeps his word even when it is difficult to do so”. That is the meaning of integrity, which our leaders must know and understand.
These servants took an oath and pledged to execute their duties with integrity. Going contrary to their oath is awkward and brings about disgrace upon their lives. Being implicated in such a scandal means they did not keep the word of oath they took before the president. AG Werema and Minister Muhongo are high professionals in their disciplines. It is surprising that they do not behave according to their professions.
I had high hopes and trust with both Judge Werema and Prof. Muhongo and I first thought they were unfairly implicated in the scandal on political grounds. What made me change my mind is after seeing a letter produced by opposition leader in parliament and Ukawa chairman Freeman Mbowe, which proved that the office of AG sent Godwin Ngwilimi to Malaysia to find out the truth on the status of Mechmar Company, if it sold its shares to Harbinder Singh Sethi’s company known as Piperlink. It should be remembered that both AG Werema and Prof Muhongo denied Tanesco to send Ngwilimi to Malaysia.
Nevertheless, Werema did not disprove or deny a copy of the letter alleged by Mbowe that was issued by AG to introduce Ngwilimi and another lawyer from the AG’s office to his counterpart in Malaysia. For highly respected officials like Werema and Muhongo speaking the way they did in parliament that, Ngwilimi was not sent to Malaysia was unbelievable. Such falsehood is not forgivable and forgettable. Let President Kikwete terminate their employment at once! When Tanzanians will have to trust their public leaders? The way this escrow account was handled makes us lose faith in our leaders at all levels.
Worse enough, we are astonished the way the AG office and the Ministry of Energy and Minerals believed Harbinder Sethi through doubtful documents instead of finding out the truth of Mechmar company’s transactions with Piperlink from the right source? If VIP Engineering Company was represented by its director James Rugemalira, why Mechmar was not represented by any official from it in proving such a deal? These are the circumstances that led PAC to conclude that these big shots made their decisions without due diligence and were right in doing so.
If AG werema and Prof Muhongo want to clear their names from the escrow account, they must prove to members of the public that the letter presented in parliament by Mbowe was a fake one and that they did everything within their knowledge to ascertain that Mechmar did sell their shares to Piperlink.
Otherwise, both Werema and Muhongo did not only lack due diligence, but also lacked integrity in exercising their responsibilities as civil servants. Had Werema and Muhongo disproved the letter alleged by Mbowe that was issued by AG to introduce Ngwilimi to his counterpart in Malaysia, then, at least we could believe that they were not implicated in the escrow scandal. A new Constitution should provide for a strict public leadership code of conduct and public service. Without this there is no way forward.
The author is a Dar es Salaam-based lawyer. He could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 0756 440 175.