TANZANIA’s President John Magufuli, once hailed by western media as a “bulldozer of graft” has officially lost the battle against corruption. While he enjoys branding himself as a corruption fighter, audit reports show that he is presiding over a corrupt government that spends billions of public funds unscrupulously, with no regard to laws and laid down procedures.
Worse still, his government keeps working to block or silence those attempting to find out and publicise findings about grand corruption in his regime – particularly deficiencies associated with his leadership judgements.
The latest audit report by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) reveals that during the year 2017/2018, the Magufuli government squandered trillions of shillings through dubious deals and transactions, including illegal procurements and misappropriation through the country’s treasury.
In total, Tsh 1.3 trillion (equivalent to $562 million, was “embezzled.” Out of this amount, the treasury faces an audit query amounting to Tsh 885 billion (equivalent to $382.7m). Tsh 432.7 billion, equivalent to $188m, was embezzled through procurement of goods and services from five entities whose suppliers were neither approved nor legally registered.
This is not the first time the CAG’s report queries the treasury over misappropriation of public funds. Last year, the audit raised the same query over Tsh 751 billion (equivalent to $324.6m) embezzled in the year 2016/2017.
The CAG writes emphatically about this: “I reiterate my prior year recommendation, and ( I am) advising accounting officers to keep refraining from diversion of funds, and adhere to expenditures that only fall within the approved budget and the Government Financial Statistics (GFS) codes. Whenever such diversion is inevitable and in line with authority, reallocation warrant has to be sought in conjunction with Section 41 of the Budget Act No. 11 of 2015.”
In 2018, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly, having read the CAG’s report for the year 2016/17, discovered that Tsh 1.5 trillion ($640m) was “missing.” The government did not have any reasonable explanation.
The parliament ordered a re-audit of the same. When the re-audit report was presented in February 2019, it revealed further anomalies, with the missing funds shooting to Tsh 2.4 trillion ($1.03bn).
Informed sources within the government say authorities are obviously exasperated by the CAG’s reports, and they are behind a current barrage of accusations by the National Assembly Speaker, Job Ndugai, against the CAG Prof. Mussa Assad.
It is understood that some procurement is executed by direct orders from the president, whose nephew, Dotto James, permanent secretary for the ministry of finance, is the treasurer general.
On several occasions, Magufuli has said publicly that he personally ordered the purchase of air crafts, on advice from Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, against budgetary approval. A few months ago, he said in a public address that the air crafts, managed by Air Tanzania Corporation Limited (ATCL), had made huge financial profits.
But reports reveal that for the past three years, ATCL has incurred massive losses. In 2014/15, the losses amounted to Tsh 94.3 billion. In 2015/16, it made losses to the tune of Tsh 109.2 billion, while in 2017/18, the losses were Tsh 113.7 billion.
Reacting to incessant audit queries, and in effort to avoid further audit, the government is now rearranging the government procurement unit, putting it in the president’s office. Sources say the move is being executed following “orders from above,” but it will definitely cause further embarrassment and bring about more scandals against the president as he becomes the procurer-in-chief.
Magufuli enjoys working without being monitored or audited; and he hates criticism of any kind. This attitude explains his government’s brutality and hostility against critical media, opposition parties, objective academic researches, and strongly opinionated civil leaders. His most recent action was to block publication of an annual report by IMF on the state of the economy in Tanzania; although later the government denied taking such action.
By this behaviour, it is obvious that Magufuli has lost the battle against corruption. He has moved miles away from the integrity that he was once, wrongly, of course, associated with. Some circles within his own government point out that there has never been a more corrupt regime before him.