Dar es Salaam. The first foreign official trip by Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan had a lean delegation of six members only, The Citizen On Sunday learnt yesterday.
Previously such delegations had so many members, including cooks and valets.
Ms Suluhu travelled to South Africa on Wednesday to represent President John Magufuli to the forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg.
The ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation had approved a delegation of 12 members to accompany the Vice President but she slashed the list to only six, said Chief Secretary Ombeni Sefue.
The slashing of the list of the delegates from 12 to six was in line with President Magufuli’s recent directives aimed at cutting down government spending and using the monetary savings on the provision of social services, including health and education.
The lean delegation of the Vice President sent a message that President Magufuli’s cost-cutting measures were not only directed to the lower cadre in the public service but also to those in the corridors of power.
“It was the Vice President herself who slashed the list of delegates from 12 members to five or six only. It was purely her initiative,” said Mr Sefue when asked whether the slashing was done by the President himself.
At the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced $60 billion (about Sh120 trillion) of assistance and loans for Africa, signalling China’s commitment to the continent despite a recent fall in investment. China’s economic growth has taken a dip this year, triggering a global commodities slump and causing Beijing to slash investment in Africa by more than 40 per cent in the first six months of 2015.
Last month, President Magufuli cut a bloated delegation of 50 people to four of a government delegation to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2015 in Malta on November 27-29.
Reports reaching this newspaper indicated that the President also slashed a delegation of almost 20 members to three to attend the international climate change conference (COP21) in Paris from November 30 through December 12.
President Magufuli has also made a catalogue of measures aimed at cutting down government extravagance, including the downsizing by more than 90 per cent the budget for the state dinner that usually marks the opening of Parliament. The money saved was used to buy beds for the Muhimbili National Hospital.
Dr Magufuli also cancelled Independence Day celebrations, traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism.
“It is so shameful that we are spending huge amounts of money to celebrate 54 years of independence when our people are dying of cholera,” Dr Magufuli said.
He said the celebrations will be marked by street-cleaning to improve sanitation and tackle cholera.
Instead of sponsoring a World Aids Day commemoration, President Magufuli ordered the money to be spent on anti-retroviral drugs. He also ordered government institutions and agencies to stop use of public funds to pay for Christmas and New Year greeting cards.
Last week, President John Magufuli suspended Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) Commissioner General Rished Bade, pending investigations into how taxes amounting Sh80 billion for 349 cargo containers were not paid for at the Dar es Salaam Port.
The President suspended the TRA chief two hours after Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa had suspended five other senior TRA officials over the whereabouts of the Sh80 billion taxes for the 349 containers.
The suspension of the TRA senior officials followed a surprise visit by the Prime Minister at the Tanzania Ports Authority.
The TRA boss became the first top official to be suspended by the Head of State since he was sworn in as President earlier this month after he had emerged victorious in the October 25 General Election. Mr Sefue told a news conference that President Magufuli suspended Bade to pave the way for an investigation into the scandal.
The suspension of the TRA top officials came barely a week after President Magufuli laid down the priorities of his government, sending out a strong statement that it will not be business as usual under his leadership.
The President vowed to fight corruption and all forms of impunity. His speech set the working tone for the yet to be assembled cabinet and also for those in public service, either as politicians or civil servants. He said it was now the time for Tanzanians to walk the talk in the resolve to confront vices that he said were holding the nation back in uplifting millions from abject poverty.
On Friday, seven senior TRA officials and an official with Azam Inland Container Depot appeared in court facing charges of economic sabotage and causing loss of $6.3 million in unpaid taxes to the government.