Friday, February 08, 2008

Corruption: Tanzania dissolves cabinet after corruption scandal

Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete dissolved his cabinet Thursday night after accepting the resignation of Prime Minister Edward Lowassa over allegations of corruption. Prime Minister Lowassa tendered his resignation after a select parliamentary committee on energy presented a report of its investigation of an emergency power project, which was meant to resolve the country’s energy crisis. But the report found corruption at the core of the project, awarded to the US-based Richmond Development Corporation. Prime Minster Lowassa took the fall after claiming political responsibility for the failed enterprise.

From the capital, Dodoma, parliament minority leader Hamid Mohammed tells reporter Peter Clottey that the opposition should be credited for its diligence in pursuing graft activities against President Kikwete’s government.

“First of all it started after the select committee presented its report to the parliament about the Richmond saga. After that, the prime minister reacted. He was the first person to react to the report… and finally he said he will take political responsibility. He said he had already sent his letter of resignation to the president, and then the president finally this evening, approved the resignation of the prime minister,” Mohammed noted.

He said the country’s constitution makes special provisions after a prime minister resigns.

“According to our constitution, when a president wants to form a government he has to consult the prime minister, and once the prime minister resigns, automatically, the cabinet is dissolved. So that is what is happening and on the opposition’s part, first of all we congratulate the prime minister for taking such a tough decision after what we call the scandal of Richmond. And he took that political decision and we really praise him,” he said.

Mohammed said the perpetrator named in the report would face the full rigors of the law.

“Yes, there are two areas. One is the legal area and the other one is political responsibility. He (Lowassa) was responsible for all these issues so he has to take the political responsibility. Himself, the minister of energy, the former minister of energy. Both of them have taken the political responsibility, and the attorney general and the others have to take responsibilities. Then legal responsibilities would follow later on,” Mohammed pointed out.

He said the opposition deserves commendation for being vigilant.

“All these corrupt issues we brought up by the opposition. You would remember since we went to parliament, although we are very few, we raised all these corrupt practices in our country. Later, we raised the issue of the Bank Of Tanzania, and also the Supreme Tour projects and others. We raised all those issues and found out that the ruling party is losing ground to the people. So they joined our force. That is why we came out very strong. And finally, our finance committee played a very big role in joining the opposition on the issue of corruption. And then the select committee,” he noted.

The parliamentary select committee reportedly concluded that the premier and the two ministers unduly influenced the decision to award the power contract to Richmond, dubiously causing financial loss to the country.

By Peter Clottey, Washington, D.C., 08 February 2008
Published with the permission of Voice of America