How Tanesco eats the national cake

We could say the chickens came home to roost at parliament. The Tanzania minister for energy and minerals, Professor Muhongo, declared war on corrupt elements in Tanesco.

The minister in a no-nonsense tone said power rationing was not necessary when installed generation capacity was 1,300MW and utilisation is about 70MW.

Apparently, power shedding was a cover to mask shady deals that benefit a few.Ê You mean the severe electricity rationing in the last few years aimed to fatten a few smooth operators and the rest of us can live in hell?

Like the tender to supply office stationery worth 884 million shillings to Tanesco given to a Santa Clara company owned by the family of the managing director is clearly a major conflict of interest, an ethical quagmire for the MD. Did Santa come to town?

We have an ethical dilemma for the Tanzania parliament if what the minister said about some legislators doing business to supply fake (or genuine) vehicle tyres is true. Can MPs who own businesses avoid doing business with government? Will such business dealings be squeaky clean? Owner MPs risk being tarred by the dark brush of corruption.

The minister also cited examples how Tanesco staff in collaboration with business persons some of whom could/are MPs sabotage the power company.Ê Tanesco imported a box of nails from the UK for a princely sum of £ 50,000. Was that for the love of the queen?

A box of nails for say 120,000,000/- and nobody has been sacked or jailed? I thought dubious imports masquerading as the real McCoy was something only far-eastern traders specialised on? How about this? Apparently, the heavy furnace oil used to generate electricity is overpriced too. Tanesco used to buy it from BP oil company which is 50% owned by the government of Tanzania for about 1,400/- per litre.

Some bigwigs in Tanesco awarded the tender to other suppliers for 1,800/- per litre. The only problem is, the new contractor did not stock the stuff and had to go buy from BP (now called Puma).  As if that was not enough, some clever persons bought wooden poles from the province of Chief Mkwawa, exported them to Kenya and later imported the same poles via Mombasa and Dar ports.

Only this time around, the poles originally harvested from Iringa forests were labelled made in South Africa.Ê That is like a Mhehe waking up one morning and discovering that during the night, she has turned into a Zulu maiden. That is called creative importing.Ê How much did Tanesco pay for these expat poles?

Which investor, trader, politician or street vendor has not experienced the misery of lousy Tanesco service? The national electricity supply company has been dishing out power shedding like a doctor's prescription for the last few years. If there was a survey of customer satisfaction for public companies in the country, we can safely bet Tanesco would easily claim the bottom spot.

How many times Bunge has been told Tanesco has no money, that is why we must have power rationing?
Now, how do we know if all the electric wires, transformers, capacitors and pylons bought by Tanesco in the last 10 years are not heavily over-invoiced?

If Tanzanians can import made in Tanzania wooden poles from south without sending an invoice to Elkom South Africa, they can procure on paper, 100 litres of kerosene and record payment for 1,000 tonnes of transformer oil.

How can we be sure there are no Tanesco board members or staff who travelled to Germany, Japan, Sweden or other destinations without buying tickets? Maybe they flew by magic carpet to inspect used emergency electricity generating systems. And in the process they could pocket substantial allowances for real or ghost trips.

Tanesco has been mentioned in past audits for failure to comply with public procurement procedures, failure to maintain an up-to date fixed assets register, and some questionable purchases e.g. a 59 KVA generator where a 15 KVA one would suffice. ÊWhere there is smoke there is bound to be fire.

The Tanesco board must share the blame for the mess in the company. To quote the CAG in the 2008-9 and 2009-2010 audit reports, the board of directors of TANESCO should comply with the public procurement act no. 21 of 2004 and its related regulations of 2005 and ensure value for money is obtained when overseeing daily undertakings of the Company.

If the board has not ensured value for money Ð that is why the recommendation was made and has failed to ensure strict adherence to public procurement regulations, why is it still breathing? As the president said some weeks back when certain ministers were axed, other senior officials must go too including directors and governing bodies.

The auditor general must conduct a special audit of Tanesco if not already doing so. In the 2009 report, the CAG stated and I quote, in the course of the special audit, conducted by my office in TANESCO nothing came to my attention to indicate outright theft of cash at TANESCO, end of quote.

This time, there is evidence of theft by stealth, end quote. The few things raised by the minister of energy during his closing speech at Bunge could be the tip of the iceberg. Is this not the same Tanesco that was embroiled in the Richmond saga? This time the CAG must dig deep in the oceans of corruption for any sharks swimming in Tanesco's murky waters.

The CAG must name names of persons to be axed and taken to court instead of making recommendations as usual. When prior years' audit recommendations are not being acted upon or are ignored outright with apparent impunity, it is time for punitive measures. The national audit office, well-regarded outside Tanzania, must be respected at home too.

After having had too many drinks in ...

Author: Tony Zakaria

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