ZANZIBAR government has paid 10bn/- as the initial settlement of the accumulated 121bn/- it owes the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO) in power tariffs.
Energy and Minerals Minister Sospeter Muhongo confirmed in Dar es Salaam yesterday that the Zanzibar government paid the amount in efforts to settle its outstanding debt to TANESCO and pledged to continue paying until the entire debt is cleared, noting that the power utility has been directed not to disconnect electricity in the Islands.
Prof Muhongo disclosed the payment after Zanzibar President Ali Mohamed Shein met President John Magufuli at State House in Dar es Salaam. The two presidents held talks in the presence of Minister Muhongo and TANESCO’s acting Managing Director Kahitwa Bishaija.
Zanzibar’s move comes few days after President Magufuli ordered TANESCO management to disconnect power to all debt defaulters with huge outstanding power bills, including the Zanzibar government. Dr Magufuli issued the directive while laying the foundation stone for the new TANESCO substation in Mtwara.
He insisted that all public institutions should clear their debts or be disconnected. He said Zanzibar government alone, through Zanzibar Electricity Corporation (ZECO), owed the power utility firm 121bn/-.
With equal weight, he directed Prof Muhongo to ensure that power is disconnected even at State House in Dar es Salaam to press the responsible officials to clear the TANESCO debts, saying the company needs the money to survive. Prof Muhongo reminded all defaulters to pay their outstanding bills within five days, or risk power disconnection.
Last year, TANESCO asked the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) support to recover the debts, with the Zanzibar government accumulating its bills since 2013.
Zanzibar’s debt emanated from the difference in tariffs between ZECO and TANESCO, with ZECO charging lower tariff than TANESCO, and ultimately collecting significantly less than what TANESCO charges.
The then Treasury Registrar, Mr Lawrence Mafuru, was quoted as telling the PAC that the issue of Zanzibar debt was already on President Magufuli’s hands.