Dar es Salaam. Tanzania’s anti-corruption agency is defending its decision to let off Rom Solutions Company Limited in a case in which it has recommended economic sabotage charges against former minister Kangi Lugola and 16 other government officials.
The recent decision by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau to only aportion blame in a Sh1 trillion fire department scandal to government officials while sparing Rom Solutions which was also a party in the deal, raised eyebrows and left many questions unanswered.
Rom Solutions is the Romanian-linked company which had entered a memorundum of understanding with the ministry of home affairs for the supply of fire and rescue equipment in a contract that would cost euro 408 million (Sh1.02tr).
President John Magufuli called a bluff on the MOU negotiators and drafters, ordering an investigation into any impropriety thereof. But he sacked Mr Lugola and the commissioner for the fire brigade Thobias Andengenye over their role in the deal he termed “scandalous.” The President also accepted the resignation of the ministry’s permanent secretary Brigadier Jacob Kingu whom he later appointed ambassador designate.
However, when PCCB’s investigation was out, Rom Solutions escaped any liability after the company reportedly withdrew voluntarily from the MOU arrangement. PCCB acting acting director-general John Mbungo said their investigation had not found it culpable. Other than the economic sabotage charges labelled against the participating government officials, there was no mention of any corruption charge on either of the parties.
When The Citizen sought to find out how possible it was that PCCB found Rom Solutions not culpable, Mr Mbungo defended the agency’s investigations despite questions on the veracity of their findings. He said it is not “fair” to blame the company for the unfolding saga implicating both the company and some senior government officials.
There were also fears whether any charges could be sustained in court with only one side of the deal being taken to task. That PCCB could also not establish any corruption or bribery in the matter was another sticking point, even as it is awaited to see if the director of public prosecutions will prefer charges against Mr Lugola and the other 16 civil servants accused of economic sabotage.
In his interview with The Citizen over a week now, Mr Mbungo reiterated that what had happened was more of violation of public procurements procedures than actual corruption.
He said the company “was an outsider” and that it was indeed the government officials who were wrong because they knew the regulations dictating any public procurement.
The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) which regulates all public procurement was unavailable to issue comment, with the spokesperson Joseph Muhozi telling The Citizen he was not in a position to respond to The Citizen’s questions.
President Magufuli who first publicly revealed the deal, suggested there may have been bribery to influence the outcome, saying those who were negotiating with the private company were paid $800 each for every sitting. He said the company also gave the government officials laptops.
Asked about President Magufuli’s statement implicating Rom Solutions with imprompriety, Mr Mbungo said: “A statement made on a platform must be weighed within the legal context.” Mr Mbungo did not say if PCCB’s investigations found any money or laptops were given as kickbacks.
Mr Mbungo said it was the government that was all to blame for the impropriety. He said: “Rom Solutions surrendered and withdrew from the contract. But withdrawing from the contract does not mean that you will escape criminal liability. But always wisdom may guide you that if I have been able to do this, I can also do that.”
Rom Solutions cannot be prosecuted, he added, before clarifying that the person who would decide whether the company will be prosecuted or not is the office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP). He, however, said that the government has decided that they shouldn’t be prosecuted.
Asked how possible it is that only one party of the scandal can be prosecuted, Mbungo asked; “How do you know that those others will be prosecuted?” before he declined to take any additional question, asking The Citizen to contact the DPP.
Efforts to reach the Public Accounts Committee chairperson for comment were futile but Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe who served in the same position in the past told The Citizen that it did not appear normal how the investigations ended.
He said corruption is two-fold – a giver and receiver – and that it was “wrong for PCCB to let the company free and charge the Lugola and et all.”
Rom Solutions seems dodgy, said Mr Kabwe, adding that the company seems to have some businesses with the Revolutionary Government of Zanzibar and wanted to extend to Mainland Tanzania.
“I am not sure now if Lugola and the others really committed crime. But if they did as we are being told, then the Romanian coy must be held to account too,” said Mr Kabwe.