Dar es Salaam: The newly appointed minister for Industry and Trade, Dr Abdallah Kigoda, yesterday ordered the suspension of embattled director of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) Charles Ekelege whose alleged poor performance contributed to the sacking earlier this month of his (Kigoda’s) predecessor, Dr Cyril Chami. Dr Kigoda announced the suspension of Mr Ekelege during a familiarisation meeting at the ministry’s headquarters during which he also laid down his priorities that included revival of dormant privatised industries and reducing the cost of doing business in a bid to enable locally made products to compete with imported ones.
The suspension of the country’s head of standards watchdog comes after numerous failed attempts to have him removed to pave the way for investigations over unaccounted for Sh23 billion in fees that went to allegedly ghost agents subcontracted to inspect Tanzanian imports.
Yesterday, Dr Kigoda said he was ordering an immediate suspension of Mr Ekelega to enable the government conduct a thorough investigation that would lead to other procedures. “I have ordered the TBS board to suspend him immediately following allegations raised against him in the parliamentary Parastatal Organisations Accounts Committee (POAC) Report which reveals that a bogus pre-shipment inspection has caused Sh23 billion loss to the government,” said Mr Kigoda.
Debating the latest report of the CAG, MPs called for removal of Dr Chami for dilly dallying on its recommendation to suspend Mr Ekelege who is alleged to have been responsible for the rot uncovered at TBS. But the then minister argued that it would be improper to kick out the TBS boss before receiving sufficient evidence of his wrongdoings.
The CAG initiated the trip to Asia after audit reports indicated that most car imports were not being inspected as required and instead the agents were simply issuing stickers to justify their entry into Tanzania. The scam is said to have led to importation into Tanzania of thousands of substandard vehicles. Hence, the CAG recommended a replacement of the country’s standard watchdog chief executive.
The suspension of the TBS boss who is said to be in Japan for a familiarisation tour together with board members is likely to send shockwaves to other heads of public institutions who have been linked to embezzlement and mismanagement of public funds in the CAG‘s latest report.
Naming his new team, President Kikwete had said his clean up would go beyond ministers and rope in top aides whose performance influences that of their bosses – the ministers.
Yesterday, Dr Kigoda used the occasion to announce his priorities at the ministry he had headed until 1997, saying he was determined to revive privatised industries which have been idle for years. The minister said he would use diagnostic approach to give back life to the “dead industries”. That would entail establishing factors behind the failure of privatised industries in a bid to come up with a lasting solution that would enable them to once again contribute to the economy.
He said the revival plan would involve strategic plans applied by other successful privatised firms like Tanzania Breweries Limited (TBL) and Tanzania Cigarette Company (TCC). “We must first establish the root cause of their failure and come up with a comprehensive solution. We have Urafiki Textile Company with more than enough raw materials but its products are nowhere to be seen,” said he.
Dr Kigoda also said he would focus on empowering small and medium enterprises (SMEs) which, he said, were crucial in fighting poverty. “This will involve forming a strategy to help them in terms of training and funding. It doesn’t necessarily mean the government will give them loans but rather, we will talk with other stakeholders like commercial banks to do that on our behalf,” he said.
Another issue Dr Kigoda said he would look into the best ways with which Tanzanians would benefit by joining certain regional economic blocs.
“By that I mean, we need to reassess our taxation system as compared to those of regional markets and see how we can benefit otherwise we could end up being the dumping ground of all sorts of imported goods,” he lamented.
Yesterday Dr Kigoda, who has previously served as minister of State in the President’s Office responsible for Planning and Privatisation said another crucial area for him was reduction of the cost of doing business for local and foreign investors and bureaucracy. “This is the best way to win more investors,” he said.