A record six ministers and two deputies were sacked a week ago in Tanzania over corruption allegations and other accountability shortcomings, in a case that puts the Kenyan Executive on the spot in its handling of ministers mentioned in shady dealings.
Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete relieved the eight of their Cabinet positions following nearly two weeks of pressure by MPs and the public who wanted them dropped.
This was after four different reports, one by the Auditor and Controller General (CAG) and the others by parliamentary oversight committees exposed corruption and embezzlement of hundreds of millions of shillings in public funds in the respective ministries.
And when the chop finally came, it did not matter which portfolios they were holding. As a matter of fact, some of the casualties are very close political allies of the president.
The sacking on May 4 was the second time in as many years that government ministers implicated in scandals were forced out or resigned voluntarily to save the image of the government and also safeguard the political interests of the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM).
In February 2008, Prime Minister Edward Lowassa resigned from office after a parliamentary select committee investigating a $172 million emergency power generation contract between Tanzania Electric Supply Company (Tanesco) and a US registered firm accused him of influencing the award.
Resigning with him were two ministers who held the Energy and Minerals docket – Mr Nazir Karamagi and Dr Ibrahim Msabaha.
The full ministers fired in the recent reshuffle were: Mr Mustafa Mkulo (Finance), Mr William Ngeleja (Energy and Minerals), Mr Ezekiel Maige (Tourism and Natural Resources), Dr Cyril Chami (Trade and Industry), Mr Omar Nundu (Transportation) and Dr Hadji Mponda (Health).
Other than suspected corruption and influence peddling, some of the ministers came under heavy censure for presiding over corrupt public institutions, including failing to take disciplinary action against those found to have misappropriated money meant for schools, health centres, roads and other public projects.
Mr Mkulo was blamed for rising national debt, deterioration of the local currency and spiraling inflation, which led to a sharp rise in the cost of living.
He was also accused of diverting money in the budget without Parliament’s approval. MPs further claimed he had interfered with the day to day management of boards of directors for agencies under him.
Mr Ngeleja paid the price for the crippling power crisis as well as failure to steer the ministry into delivering satisfactory national benefits from mineral resources, mainly gold.
Mr Maige found himself under a storm related to issuance of wildlife and hunting block licenses. He also was forced to come out and explain his wealth in the time he had been minister.
The outgoing Trade minister was blamed for being indecisive on alleged scandals in connection with the pre-shipment inspection of Tanzania-destined vehicles – a task undertaken by the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) and which reportedly saw the agency lose TSh13 billion in suspect payments.
Former Transport minister Omari Nundu and his deputy, Mr Athumani Mfutakamba, were dropped apparently due to irregularities in the expansion of Dar es Salaam Port.
They also differed publicly on which companies to support to undertake the port project, with the minister revealing at a press conference that his deputy was sponsored for foreign trips by a Chinese company interested in the project.
Not surprisingly, the top two bosses of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Hadji Mponda and his deputy Dr Lucy Nkya, lost their slots as the result of a recent doctors’ strikes that shook the nation.
“It is a good practice for ministers to take political responsibility but this time directors in departments, chief executive officers in parastatals and the likes who caused the problems must also go… there are people who have a tendency of plotting against their ministers,” said President Kikwete.
Some political analysts and independent commentators say the Tanzania case should be adopted to make the East Africa region compliant to tenets of democracy, good governance and war on corruption.
They say, however, that Kenya and Uganda, as senior members of EAC are worst affected and suffer deplorable levels of public accountability.
Case in point is the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) scandal with the minister for Medical Services Anyang’ Nyong’o resisting calls to step aside over what appears a monumental insurance cover rip-off under his watch.
Director of Mars Group, Mr Mwalimu Mati and Ms Wanjiru Gikonyo of the Institute for Social Accountability say Kenya Kenya’s main problem is impunity driven by a political class that does not see anything wrong in wanting to protect wrong doers so long as they are in good books with the regime.
In Tanzania there seems to be a leadership code that still exists since its establishment by founding socialist President Mwalimu Nyerere,” Mr Mati explained.
He said unlike CCM, political parties in Kenya have no moral or ideological provisions.
“Unlike President Kibaki who may want to keep quiet amid a storm, President Kikwete had little room to ignore the growing pressure to sack his ministers because politics there is much more people centered. Here in Kenya the public must learn the cost of condoning such leaders.”
Ms Gikonyo hopes the dipolitisation of the government through appointment of professionals to run ministries as stipulated in the new Constitution could offer some hope for Kenya.
“Vision 2030 may fail if we do not put values ahead of money,” she said adding that corruption networks feed political leaders whose only work is to preserve the status quo. She said Kenya’s Cabinet composition is based more on selfish interests than for good governance.
Transparency International Executive Director, Mr Samuel Kimeu feels the coalition government was hindering anti-corruption efforts as the two arms of the executive have politicised and viewed critical issues on the narrow ethnic bases.