Parliament puts Prof Mkenda to the sword over HESLB

Education, Science and Technology minister, Adolf Mkenda speaks in Parliament in Dodoma yesterday. Left is his deputy Omary KIpanga. PHOTO | ERICKY BONIPHACE

Dodoma. Education minister Adolf Mkenda may have spoken at the top of his voice regarding his saga with the students’ loans board, but a Parliamentary Committee has established that the entire narrative was the result of miscommunication.
Almost two weeks ago, Prof Mkenda warned the Higher Education Students’ Loans Board (HESLB) for its failure to give appropriate cooperation to the committee he appointed in September to audit the past five-year performance of the institution.
The three-man team, which Prof Mkenda appointed, was tasked with, among other things, reviewing the entire process of issuing study loans to students in the past five years.
It was given a month to complete its task, including examining complaints raised with regards to the loan disbursement process.
And, when the matter came up in Parliament last week, Prof Mkenda insisted that the magnitude of the resistance that his committee was receiving from HESLB suggested that there was something fishy going on there.  
This forced the Speaker of Parliament, Dr Tulia Ackson, to order that the HESLB management team appear before the Parliamentary Committee on Social Welfare and Community Development on Friday last week (November 5, 2022) for grilling on why it was disregarding the minister’s directives.
But the outcomes of the probe presented in Parliament yesterday by a member of the committee, Mr Mussa Sima, established that Prof Mkenda may not have conducted his homework properly. 
“It was just miscommunication between the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology and the Loans Board,” recounted Mr Sima, who doubles as Singida Urban lawmaker on the ruling CCM’s ticket.
He said at first the HESLB did not give cooperation to Prof Mkenda’s committee because it did not receive any written document from the ministry, directing it to work with the newly formed committee.
Mr Sima told the Parliament that after interrogating the HESLB board members and management, they found out that in July this year, the committee had wanted cooperation from the board without a letter and terms of reference.
In August, they received a letter, but it had no terms of reference, thus making them fail to collaborate once again.
In September, the Loans Board received the letter with terms of reference, thus opening the doors for the probe to be conducted.
“It was pure miscommunication and not disrespect of the Loans Board (towards the minister’s committee) that led to delayed implementation of the directives of the Minister for Education, Science, and Technology,” said Mr Sima.
While Prof Mkenda is on record as having been quoted as saying the HESLB was not cooperating with his probe committee, Mr Sima told the House yesterday that during interrogation, Prof Mkenda told the committee that he had no problem with the Loans Board and that his committee was receiving the much-needed cooperation. 
Prof Kitila Mkumbo (Ubungo-CCM), who is also a member of the Social Welfare and Community Development Committee, told the Parliament that the committee lacked the documentary evidence to show that the Loans Board was disrespectful. 
“After the minister formed the special committee, the ministry’s Permanent Secretary was supposed to officially write to the Loans Board, informing it about the probe, but that was not done,” said Prof Mkumbo. 
Husna Sekiboko (Special Seats-CCM) who is also a member of the same committee, said government works on paper. 
She said Prof Mkenda’s statement in Parliament last week that his committee was receiving strong resistance contradicted the statement the same person issued before the committee on Friday of last week.
“We need to strengthen our communications systems so that we can do away with unnecessary contradictions like this,” he recommended. Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla (Nzega Rural-CCM) said the fact that Prof Mkenda was contradicting himself showed that he had lied to Parliament. But Prof Mkenda said his statement last week about strong resistance from the Loans Board was just an overreaction due to the slow pace of the work done by his committee and the Loans Board