Editorial: Rampant public sector graft too deep-rooted

Friday August 10 2018

The seemingly-endless grand corruption which is rampant in the public sector needs extraordinary, highly-imaginative measures to eradicate once and for all.

Judging by the number, frequency and incidence of grand corruption disclosures published in recent times – especially beginning with the fifth-phase government of President John Magufuli since November 5, 2015 – the inescapable conclusion is that grand corruption is not only widespread, but also involves shameless top-echelon public officials.

Take as an example the burning issue at the parastatal National Identification Authority (Nida) where formal investigations have commenced into the role played by some of its top officials in an alleged scandal engulfing a public procurement deal valued at Sh28.5 billion.

Reportedly, seven private firms had ‘won’ under highly-dubious circumstances a public tender to develop a system for the issuance of national identity cards. As if that weren’t criminal enough, the firms have been more than lackadaisical in delivering on the undertaking they statutorily committed themselves to – and for which they were paid upfront.

In the event, Finance Minister Philip Mpango has vowed ‘judicial fire-and-brimstone’ for any person(s) convicted of wrongdoing in the Nida scandal. But – as we noted yesterday – Home Affairs Minister Kangi Lugola has directed the contracted firms to refund the payments. This is even before the investigations are over and done with – and any judicial decision(s) made one way or another.

Public procurement consumes 70 per cent of Tanzania’s budgeted annual recurrent expenditure – making the deep-rooted rampant corruption in the public sector doubly-tragic. We once more impress upon the government the need to resort to prompt, sterner and more effective measures than mere mumbo-jumbo to eradicate grand corruption in the public sector for starters.

Stop Namanga flare-ups

The resurgence of trade flare-ups this week at the Tanzania-Kenya border is regrettable, coming as it did a few months after senior government officials from the two neighbours met and declared that all was now well. By Wednesday, business at the Namanga border post was still paralysed as Kenyans protested alleged mistreatment by Tanzanian authorities.

This was after several milk traders were arrested and placed in custody last Saturday. Incidentally, this came days after Kenyan tour van drivers blocked their Tanzanian counterparts from accessing the Kenyan — on grounds that Tanzanian authorities had treated them in a similar manner.

It’s unfortunate that the two governments seem not to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves, despite the volume of trade between them. Sadly, the continued squabbling between Tanzanians and Kenyans at this busy border deals a major blow to sources of livelihood of millions of citizens on either side at stake. Trade at this border has been feeding small traders, farmers, industrialists and the hospitality sector for years.

We are now used to the political rhetoric that normally follows meetings between officials from both sides. This should stop. Just recently, we were assured that the days of petty squabbling at Namanga were over. What we need is de-escalation of this regrettable situation.