Deal gone bad for ‘Ninja’

Friday January 24 2020

President John Magufuli arrived at Ukonga in

President John Magufuli arrived at Ukonga in Dar es Salaam yesterday to inaugurated Ukonga Prison Warden new House. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE 

By The Citizen Reporter @TheCitizenTz

Dar es Salaam. Questions abound over the reported Sh1 trillion fire fighting and emergency equipment deal that so infuriated President John Magufuli and led to his sacking of one of his loyal cabinet members, Mr Kangi Lugola as home affairs minister.

President Magufuli also fired the commissioner general of the Fire and Rescue Brigade Thobias Andengenye whom he said was party to the contract with a Romania-based company for supply of equipment to his department. The company’s name was not revealed.

The lucrative contract was worth a whooping euros 408 million (Sh1.04 trillion) for supply of what the President described as “‘useless fire and rescue equipment”, including drones. Despite its magnitude, it was the first time that the contract was made public, and it took the President’s ire to reveal it.

The matter immediately raised troubling questions whether the said contract followed the strict procurement amendment rules that were put in place shortly after the President assumed office in 2016 to curb corruption and wastage of public resources through wheeler dealing in government.

It will also cast parliament’s oversite role on the negative as the National Assembly did not apparently approve such an amount of funds for use by the ministry or was it stated in the government’s main budget for the current financial year as would be expected of such significant public spending.

The President’s revelation that Mr Lugola and top ministry officials signed the deal abroad without knowledge of other relevant arms of government, equally raises questions of the approvals for foreign travel of top State officials who, according to current standing rules, have to be cleared to travel by the President. The Head of State was additionally livid that the said amount was to be in form of a loan, yet treasury was kept in the dark about it.

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The drama around the deal unfolded yesterday live on television as the President officially handed over new prison department houses constructed by Tanzania National Service in Dar es Salaam. Dr Magufuli announced that the ministry’s PS, Major General Jacob Kingu, voluntarily resigned to take responsibility and wondered alound why the minister was doing at the function. Mr Lugola had spoken ahead of the President and welcomed him to address the gathering. The President alluded to the fact that Parliament and the ministry of finance were kept in the dark over the deal he said was dubious. He said Mr Andengenye drafted and signed the contract.

He further revealed that during contract negotiations, government officials were each paid $800 (Sh1.8 million) as allowance per day.

President Magufuli further lamented that under the agreement, there was no room for review of the terms and conditions by the contracting parties.

“Kangi Lugola is my former student. I taught him at Sengerema Secondary School, but for this, I say, NO. I’m even surprised that he came to this event,” wondered the President.

“I also like Commissioner Andengenye because he is a hard worker but for this, I say, no. We can’t run a country as if there are no principles,” noted the Head of State. Mr Magufuli said that Mr Andengenye and co signed the deal despite being aware that only the Ministry of Finance had the mandate to do so with a foreign country or agent.

“I don’t want to be a hypocrite because they know the only authority to undertake such kind of agreements is the Finance ministry,” said the President as he addressed the gathering that was covered live.

Dr Magufuli entailed that the deal involved the procurement of ‘useless fire and rescue equipment’ including drones.

The Head of State commended Mr Kingu whom he late appointed Ambassador for acting responsibly by tendering his resignation.

“I don’t know if he was involved or not but I commend him for acting responsibly,” said the Head of State.

Presenting his 2019/20 budget speech, Mr Lugola outlined some of the priorities of the Fire and Rescue Brigade. They include procurement of fire fighting engines (Sh3 billion), other use vehicles (Sh3.75 billion) as well as Sh750 million for purchasing of fire fighting and rescue equipment.