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Corruption stinks, We must end it now

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Corruption stinks, We must end it now

 Also reported by The Citizen Newspaper

Zitto Kabwe talking at the CEOs Round Table Dinner.

We must end it now

Remarks by Zitto Kabwe, MP at the launch of nationwide survey on people’s perceptions of corruption in Tanzania by Sauti za Wananchi, TWAWEZA on the 5th August, 2014 Dar es Salaam.

In 1999 when I was a first year student at the university and a student activist, the student body invited Judge Joseph Warioba to speak about corruption. At the Council Chamber he narrated a story about a woman whose child was sick at Mbeya Referral hospital and died because she did not have tshs 500 bribe to give to a nurse in order for the nurse to admit a drip on the child. I always remember this story and results of this survey confirm it. This survey shows that 7 out of 10 individuals consider a patient giving money or other materials to a public health facility doctor for the help they gave to them as corruption. Our people are confronted with this reality in their daily lives. We must fight everyday corruption as much as grand corruption. It is the poorest that pays the highest price of corruption. As endemic as corruption in Tanzania is, we need new approach to combat it, Thomas Sankara once said “You cannot carry out fundamental change without a certain amount of madness”.

Everyday corruption isn’t reported in our media outlets as much as mega scams, but it is real and so pervasive in our society. Daily life in Tanzania is governed by the ‘petty’ corruption of public officials in services such as health, education, agriculture and judicial system. It takes various forms including commission for illicit service, string-pulling, favours, nepotism, rent seeking and misappropriation.

The survey once again confirms the pervasive nature of corruption in Tanzania and the hopelessness the population has on cutting down corruption. It is argued that corruption in Africa generally and in Tanzania in particular is qualitatively different from corruption in other parts of the world in its pervasiveness, its legitimations and its significant impact on the nature of the state.[1] Formal definitions of corruption range from decay of society to single act of bribery. It involves the acquisition of money, assets or power in a way which escapes public view.[2]

The survey we are presented with today shows all signs of a rotten society with sustained bad habit of putting things under the carpets. 8 out of 10 people believe corruption has increased over the last decade and majority believe that we can not end corruption. What is shocking is the fact that 7 out of 10 people believe that even if we change the governing party corruption wont be fought. With the revelations of the audited report of the accounts of political parties coming soon, the people are stating the obvious. There is a moral decay. It stinks.

Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC) duty is to hold public officials accountable. Through reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General, PAC and previously POAC has produced reports and reports about mismanagement of public funds. We were very successful in 2012 whereby through a threat to impeach the Prime minister, the President sacked 6 senior ministers and 2 deputies. 1 prosecution has been done (TBS) but the hunter became hunted. POAC was disbanded, annual reports by committees pushed to November sessions of parliament (so during election year in 2015 the PAC report won’t be submitted in April!) and Public Audit Act of 2008 amended to reduce the powers of oversight committees vis a vis auditor general reports. Obviously these are steps backward. It is comparable to the famous Tehelka scandal in India where journalists showed a secret video footage of senior politicians accepting bribes. Journalists became victims instead of the corrupt.[3] But these negative actions against anti corruption campaigners shall not deter us from fighting graft in Tanzania.

I am not shocked at all with the revelations that many Tanzanians know little about scams like IPTL (8 out of 10 Tanzanians had not heard of the scandal). I knew about withdrawal of Tegeta escrow money for the first time through The Citizen newspaper and immediately I acted upon and summoned central bank governor before PAC (https://zittokabwe.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/mapya-iptl-270million-zimetokaje-bot/). We issued statements on every single step we were taking including a directive to CAG and PCCB to carry a special audit. PAC directed special audit on Tegeta Escrow Account on the 20th March, 2014. Media houses with exception of Mwananchi, The Citizen and Mtanzania were not covering the scam at all regardless of number of statements we issued. May be they did not understand it. The day ndugu David Kafulila spoke about it in parliament, handful of papers reported and majority ignored the story but carried a clarification about it. (https://www.facebook.com/zittokabwe/posts/746280225392677). I posted on my Facebook wall ‘wahariri na miwani za mbao’. Now coverage about the scam has increased with the newest revelations from RaiaMwema weekly and daily TanzaniaDaima that the scam involve a tax fraud and a fraudulent transfer of ownership involving tax havens. Therefore, there is a significant need for media coverage in order for the public to hear about these scams. In addition, it is about how the scam is communicated for the people to understand.- therefore, I believe there is a need for adequate and rational media coverage of these scams so that people can be informed about them.

In Tanzania, we have metamorphosed into a situation whereby somebody is corrupt if he or she is your political enemy. And sometimes politics drive media coverage in order to confuse the public. Today IPTL scam is one of the most misunderstood because politicians, bureaucrats and some media have collaborated for it to be so. However when PAC submits its report to the house based on the findings from special audit, the country will be stunned to see how public officials participated in sanctioning a fraudulent transaction in the name of national interest. Will PCCB go ahead with prosecutions? Yes and No.

I have full trust in the ability and capacity of PCCB. But the system is set in such a way that the latter has no powers to bite. A number of cases are with Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). As a nation we must decide now to grant PCCB the power to prosecute. I strongly advocate the establishment of Serious Fraud Office within PCCB that will have legislative powers to investigate and prosecute all major scams done by public officials. Granting PCCB powers to prosecute may be included in the draft constitution through establishment of the Public Integrity Office.

Civil Society Organisations may as well engage in addressing everyday corruption through surveys and providing an opportunity for the people to report incidences of corruption. What about ranking regions based on corruption persecution index? Or even district authorities?

PAC is going to introduce a bill in parliament to amend proceeds of crime act so that an individual with assets not commensurate with his or her income levels has a burden of proof on the legality of the assets. Councils’ officials, central government bureaucrats and politicians with wealth not in line with their incomes must be subjected to prove origin of their wealth in court. This will help the war against corruption.

I strongly propose that pressure to enact a freedom of information act be increased. This was promised by President Kikwete under OGP and the deadline set has already passed. Powered with information, the citizens can be mobilized to end public corruption.

We have to ACT now.

[1] From Everyday Corruption and the State by Blundo G, et al.

[2] Global Corruption by Cockcroft L.

[3] Curbing Corruption in Asian Countries: An Impossible Dream? By Quah J.S

Written by zittokabwe

August 6, 2014 at 12:29 PM