DAR ES SALAAM, Sunday
President John Pombe Magufuli on Sunday announced drastic measures aimed at boosting government coffers, including immediate ban on foreign travels by public servants.
He also started fulfilling promises he made during campaigns when he announced free education starting next year.
In his third day in office since he was sworn in on Thursday, President Magufuli did not mince words when he ordered that all foreign travels by senior government officials were banned effective from Saturday.
He announced the ban in a meeting with Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent Secretaries, the Governor of the Bank of Tanzania (BoT), Prof Benno Ndulu, and the Commissioner General of the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), Mr Rished Bade, at State House in Dar es Salaam.
A statement issued by State House at the end of the meeting said President Magufuli ordered that all tasks that necessitated government official to travel abroad will now be done by the country’s high commissioners and ambassadors abroad.
“Unless there is an urgent undertaking abroad one could be allowed to travel after getting permission from the President or the Chief Secretary,” said the statement signed by Assistant Press Secretary to the President, Ms Premi Kibanga.
FOREIGN TRAVEL BAN
According to the statement, President Magufuli instead directed senior government officials to make regular visits to rural areas to learn and help solve problems facing wananchi.
The ban on foreign travels has come against the backdrop of reports that the government mid this year raised civil servants’ travel allowances by 50 per cent.
The raise rekindled the debate on unnecessary travel by government employees and payment of trillions of shillings in allowances every year.
About Sh3.2 trillion was expected to be dished out as allowances in 2015/2016, equivalent to about half of the government’s wage bill.
Per diems for foreign travel is $365 (Ksh37,000) for mid-level managers and senior officers, $420 (Ksh42,000) for directors and principal officers,
On free education, President Magufuli fulfilled one of his election campaign promises when he announced that pupils and students that will be enrolled beginning January 2016 will get free education up to secondary school level.
‘‘The President directed relevant authorities to start planning for implementation,” said the statement without explaining the fate of those already in school.
He also directed relevant authorities to sort of problems in the release of education loans to ensure that the loans were given in smooth manner.
In his marathon presidential campaigns, Dr Magufuli pledged to end problems facing students when seeking education loans.
During the meeting, President Magufuli insisted that each of the public figures should work hard to ensure that promises he made to people were fulfilled without fail.
President Magufuli also reminded TRA to make ensure it undertook its duty of tax collection without fear and favour.
“In this government taxes should be paid accordingly and the only person to make decisions on tax exemptions is the Vice-President and I,” the statement quoted the President as saying.
Tanzania has one of the biggest tax exemption rates in the region with the relief amounting to 4.3 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2012.
Other countries such as Kenya and Uganda have their rates below 2 per cent.
Public procurement was another area addressed by President Magufuli.
He said anyone found procuring public goods or services on inflated prices will face the music.
A recent Public Procurement Audit report showed that the government lost Sh951 million that was paid to contractors for non-existent or shoddy works.
President Magufuli said he was setting the tone before he appointment his Cabinet so that when he appointed his Cabinet ministers should start working straightforward.
On Friday, President Magufuli walked to the Ministry of Finance unannounced sending staff into a panic mode, with some scampering for cover as others simply froze in their tracks.
Officials in the entourage told The Citizen that President Magufuli told the ministry of Finance technocrats that he wanted them to ensure enough revenue and tax was collected by the government to ensure he had the money to deliver his promises.