The Citizen Reporter
Dar es Salaam. A Parliamentary committee yesterday directed the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) and the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) to launch investigations into the extravagant use of public funds at the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA). Incensed members of the Public Corporation Accounts Committee (POAC) expressed shock with apparent excesses and decided to turn away senior TCRA officials from a working meeting held in Dar es Salaam to scrutinise their budget.
Led by the POAC deputy chairman, Mr Deo Filikunjombe, the MPs declined to endorse the authority’s financial report for 2009/10, saying it has serious financial queries.
“There is clear evidence of irregularities and millions of shillings in public funds may have been embezzled,” said Mr Filikunjombe who was chairing the session in the absence of the chairman, Mr Zitto Kabwe, who is undergoing medical treatment in India.
The TCRA officials led by Board of Director Chairperson Justice (Rtd) Buxton Chipeta and the deputy director general Mr Vuai Iddi Lica, were hard pressed to defend their huge expenditure in operation costs and allowances. The DG, Prof John Nkoma, was absent yesterday and was said to be away on other commitments.
Some of the concerns raised include that TCRA inflated by Sh18 billion, the cost of constructing the imposing ‘Mawasiliano Towers’ along Sam Nujoma Road. The MPs were further infuriated with the hefty allowance payments and other perks enjoyed by the TCRA directors and employees.
Mr Filikunjombe said the huge expenses for the year, totalling Sh27 billion, did not reflect on the agency’s productivity. He said the Parliament would summon the top management for further grilling after CAG’s investigations. According to deputy chair, who is also the MP for Ludewa, TCRA spent Sh27bn in the year out of a total of Sh40bn in revenues. He said the agency projected to use Sh27 billion to construct the Mawasiliano Towers but ended up spending Sh45 billion as shown in its records.
The MPs were also not happy with the revelation that TCRA has used more than Sh4.1 billion on training and seminars. According to the report, Sh2.2 billion of this amount was used to sponsor three officials to undergo training outside the country.
Mr Chipeta’s defence that the training was expensive but critical to the fast changing telecommunications industry failed to impress the MPs.
“We have gone through reports of various telecommunication companies in the country like TTCL (Tanzania Telecommunications Company Ltd) who trained its official in similar ICT courses but their training budget was not as big as this one,” remarked Mr Kangi Lugola (Mwibara- CCM).
Shocked by airtime allowances enjoyed by the directors, POAC ordered TCRA to stop paying them since they were not part of the management team. It was revealed that the authority’s directors were each issued a total of $350 (about Sh600,000) as airtime per month
According to Ms Christowaja Mtinda (Chadema - Special Seat), TCRA has also been providing each of the director’s handsets worth $650 (about Sh1 million) every year.
The committee also ordered TCRA to use Tanzania shillings in its transactions. “You have prohibited mobile operators from using dollars; how come you are paying yourselves in the foreign currency?” he posed.The report also shows that TCRA spent Sh36 million in overtime allowance to seven accountants, with Mr Filikunjombe saying it raised suspicion because accounts departments rarely worked outside the set hours.
TCRA director general approved Sh600 million as minor expenses; something the MPs said was against the procurement laws. According to the law, only Sh50 million is allowed for minor expenses per year.
And then, according to Mr Filikunjombe, TCRA has failed to competitively float tenders for various services as per the dictates of Procurement Act. For stance, the report shows that TCRA had single sourced one petroleum station in the city to refill its cars and generator. Such loopholes, said Mr Filikunjombe provided conduits for corruption. But Mr Chipeta played down any suggestion of fraud and defended some of the raised issues on “human errors.”
Contacted later on phone, the TCRA manager of corporate communication Mr Innocent Mungi, claimed the shooting in the cost of constructing the Mawasiliano Towers was triggered by the shilling’s fall against the US dollar.
Several MPs called for TCRA to make sure that all of its staff who would be found to have committed any wrong doing which led for the committee to throw out the report are punished accordingly.
Recently, investors in the country raised concern over the increasing number of state agencies, noting that they have been adding to the cost of doing business and squeezing them out of the competition.
They said the agencies have investments worth Sh10.3 trillion, representing 30 per cent of the national gross domestic product. The public enterprises also use their funds to invest in areas where the private sector has identified as well.
The chairman of the Chief Executive Officers Round Table of Tanzania (CEOrt), Mr Ali Mufuruki, said the agencies have also been imposing levies on private firms, adding to the latter’s operational costs.