US$20bn in taxpayers` money stolen - Sitta
By Lydia Shekighenda
Speaker of the National Assembly Samuel Sitta has expressed grave concern over embezzlement of some USD 20 billion in taxpayers` money in sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania included.
Speaking shortly after opening a three–day conference for Eastern Africa Association of Public Accounts Committees (EAAPAC) in Dar es Salaam, Sitta said there was a need to control the use of public funds to enhance the region`s economies.
``If the use of public funds is not well managed it is like putting our economy in a leaking bowl,`` Sitta said.
Citing an example, he said for the year 2006 the estimated total of embezzled funds in the region was USD 20billion, which was more than the USD 18 billion aid funds received by countries in the region in the same year.
Sitta said for too long in many countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, legislatures have remained docile custodians of oversight potential.
``The effect of this has been to grow a culture of impunity in governments where massive resources are wasted and embezzled which result into anaemic service delivery and entrenched poverty for our people,`` Sitta said.
He said parliamentarians, through effective oversight have helped to change the situation and ensure that the countries take the development path through transparency and holding governments accountable.
John Cheyo, Chairman of the House Public Accounts Committee of Tanzania, said that embezzlement of public funds through dubious contracts was big compared to the stolen cash.
He said big amounts of funds are misused through various development projects which cause a huge loss to the government.
Cheyo said that the good strategic plans for a country`s development should go together with good contracts which would save public funds from misuse.
House Local Government Accounts Committee Chairman Wilbrod Slaa said that while the committees cannot save the embezzled funds, they play an important role in ensuring that punitive measures are taken against all people who misuse the funds.
He said the committees also help to create an environment which reduces the magnitude of the problem.
``The Accounts committees carry out only a postmortem and cannot save the embezzled funds,`` he said.
Finance and Economic Affairs Minister Mustafa Mkulo said strengthening parliamentary oversight and empowering citizens to demand increased accountability was a core component of the governance agenda.
He said the government recognizes the importance of involving development partners in various gatherings as they all focus in strengthening and improving fiduciary oversight and accountability.
He said in the past dialogue on aid modalities was exclusively between the development agency and the executive branch of state, but the situation has changed in some countries like Uganda where the parliament takes a proactive role in discussing and approving development projects.
Parliament is at the apex of the accountability mechanism and so there is a strong community of interest between development partners and parliaments in ensuring that funds that flow through the exchequer are used for the intended purpose in the most efficient and economic manner, he said.
The EAAPAC fourth conference drew participants from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Rwanda Burundi and Sudan.
Several cases of embezzlement of public funds` have been reported in Tanzania over the last five years.
They include, 221bn/- lost from the Bank of Tanzania through the controversial Twin-Towers extension project; over 36bn/- Norwegian aid funds meant for the natural resources sector development and billions lost through the emergency power generation project under Richmond Development Company.