Dar es Salaam. Eleven senior officials in the ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism were yesterday suspended on corruption allegations.
Those sent home include assistant director of Wildlife Utilisation, Dr Charles Mulokozi and executive director of Tanzania Forestry Services (TFS) Juma Mgoo.
Prof Jumanne Maghembe suspended Mr Mulokozi for allegedly granting two Dutch nationals a permit to export 61 red velvet monkeys to Albania. He was also accused of allowing the hunting of 300 monkeys without a permit. The minister sent Mr Mgoo packing for reportedly disobeying an order to ensure impounded logs worth over Sh500 million were auctioned. According to the minister, the order was ignored and the logs were burnt, instead.
Two other directors, who were removed at TFS are Ms Zawadi Mbwambo (Resource Mobilisation) and Nurdin Chumuya (Planning and Resource Utilisation). Seven TFS zonal employees were also suspended to pave the way for investigation into a timber scam. Prof Maghembe said the officers’ negligence had cost the government millions of shillings.
Visibly upset, Prof Maghembe said it was sad that the suspended officers had the audacity to ignore his directives.
Mess in department
Prof Maghembe said an audit report on TFS revealed massive irregularities in revenue collection and timber harvesting.
He said some forestry officials cheated how much they collected tax, while others stayed with the collected money for over a year without depositing it on proper accounts.
“They either deposited less than what they had collected or not depositing it at all. You can see how the bank statement is different from the report. This is a big shame!” he said.
He said he was tipped off about illegal forest harvesting in Kalambo District in Rukwa and formed a task force, which later revealed the rot in the management of natural resources.
“We got information that these people were faking permits after processing timbers, which were sometimes taken to the Tanzania-Zambia boarder and brought back to create an impression they were from Zambia. “After receiving the report on March 8, I went to Kalambo, where I saw a consignment of timber waiting to be transported. I stopped it and directed the TFS director to facilitate its transportation to the municipal office in Matai for auction. The next day I travelled to Dar es Salaam.
I asked the forest office to estimate the value of the consignment and they told me its value was about Sh500 million, but yesterday I received the news that the timbers were burnt …how could this happen, while officials are there?” he queried.
The Monkeys’ saga
Prof Maghembe said he suspended Dr Mulokozi after he issued a permit to transport monkeys even after the minister had directed him not to. He said less than one week ago he was informed of people hunting monkeys in Hanang, Arusha and Kilimanjaro forests and tried to find out whether they had permits, but they had none.
He added that he was waiting to receive official information from the Wildlife management on the matter as he had been tipped off about it.
Prof Maghembe noted that the first day he was told of it 21 monkeys were caught, then the second day 40 and as of Wednesday there were more than 450 monkeys already caught.
“Last week, I was in Arusha at the regional commissioner and I met Dr Mulokozi and asked him whether he was aware of the matter and said he was not. Then, I told him to not issue any permit for transporting animals. When I came back to Dar es Salaam I called him to remind him not to issue any permit. Surprisingly, two people from The Netherlands were caught yesterday (Wednesday) at KIA transporting 61 monkeys with valid permits from the ministry’s headquarters in Dar es Salaam…not even in Arusha. You may ask yourself, how can this happen?” he questioned.
Prof Maghembe, therefore, apart from suspending the officials ordered a special audit on the permits issued since the last scandal, where four live giraffes were also caught to be smuggled to Doha-Qatar in 2013. He ordered the audit to look into the permits issue, and determine the number of animals transported since then.