Welcome to the hot seat, new TRA supremo Mhede

Saturday June 22 2019

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji

Professor Zulfiqarali Premji 

The leadership style of the fifth phase government of President John Magufuli is obviously reactive – a style of governing which I consider correct.

Anything short of this could fuel corruption, unaccountability, thus being counterproductive.

We need this style of leadership to surmount existing challenges.

A few weeks back, I wrote in this column about the virtues of listening, and that leaders should be in a listening mode at all times.

I have also written several times about the high prevalence of corruption in the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), as well as lack of transparency, and the need for TRA to change its modus operandi.

Unfortunately, no one seems to have paid heed to what I wrote. Clearly, the leadership was not in the listening mode!


It may unbelievable; but truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Hopefully, the incoming TRA commissioner general, Dr Edwin Mhede, will resort more and more to his listening faculty, heeding good advice from friends and well-wishers, and prioritize what is required at TRA to increase efficiency and deliverables.

Otherwise, he will be swept aside just as soon on the back of the extant upper-echelon reactive leadership.

It was clear from President Magufuli’s recent public speech that there is a need to increase revenue collections, partly by broadening the tax base. Tanzania has the narrowest tax base in the region.

Another strategy is zero-tolerance to corruption. It is understood that a significant amount of money that should rightly go into government coffers is pocketed by dishonest TRA officials.

The new TRA head must be proactive against corruption and must bring all workers involved in criminal shenanigans to justice.

I bet that if you do this in the early days of your administration, this would send a warning message to the rest of the employees that there’s no room for corruption in TRA.

The third strategy is that you should build close friendly but honest relationships with your clients. But the relationships must be ethical – and be seen to be so. This would discourage the business community from offering bribes to you or your workers.

The fourth strategy is to dismantle the network of corrupt officials in TRA which dates back for years, replacing it with an ethical and hardworking team.

The fifth strategy is somewhat difficult: creating the right mindset and ethical culture among the TRA family. These two concepts are glaringly lacking at the TRA you’ve just taken over.

Admittedly, the challenges are formidable; but, they aren’t insurmountable.

What’s grossly lacking at TRA is the ethical dimension – including honesty, discipline, transparency, compassion, humility, participation, accountability and respect for the rule of law. These are important characteristics that a leader should possess.

As head of the country’s premier public revenues institution, you must provide effective leadership and good governance. It is virtually impossible to achieve effective administration and set goals, as well as to deliver and sustain quality.

Good governance and effective leadership are essential for an institution to be considered successful in the eyes of stakeholders.

A team working under an effective leadership will always perform well, and set an example for other institutions.

Competency is among the requisite qualities of effective leadership. In its most basic form, the anatomy of leadership is a matter of character and competence. I have a gut feeling that there are a few employees in TRA who lack competency – and you must identify them and upgrade their skills where possible.

Accountability is another important characteristic in ethics and good governance that is essential to effective leadership. Accountability is often used synonymously with such concepts as responsibility, answerability, blamelessness, liability and similar terms associated with the concept.

It is through accountability that a leader fosters trust.

It is unfortunate that there is a significant lack of humility in TRA employees -- in that the way they communicate with their clients reflects misuse of power. This must be rectified soonest.

In order to have positive relations with others, we must use positive, NOT negative language.

When we talk of ‘language’ here, we refer to the style of giving information to others. In communicating with others, leaders must use constructive words, terms and phrases instead of using ‘killing’ words, terms and phrases.

We have to ‘wash’ destructive words, terms and phrases by using more constructive ones.

Effective leadership and good governance are two sides of the same coin. The two have many elements in common. Without an effective leadership, we should not expect good governance.

In fact, good governance may not be achieved in its totality because of cultural, psychological, social and sociological impacts and differences.

I sincerely wish the new TRA chief the best in all his endeavours.