TPDC boss, four accomplices cleared of charges

KISUTU Resident Magistrate’s Court yesterday freed five senior officials with Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC) over charges of abuse of positions in Lake Tanganyika North petroleum survey deal. Before Senior Resident Magistrate Kelvin Mhina were TPDC Managing Director James Mataragio, acting Exploration Manager George Seni, Head of Procurement and Management Unit Wellington Hudson, Director of Finance Kelvin Komba and Director of Strategy and Planning Edwin Riwa.

Magistrate Mhina discharged all accused after he received a “nolle proseq ui” certificate from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) showing that the prosecution has lost interest to prosecute the accused.

The certificate was presented in court by Senior State Attorney Wankyo Simon on behalf of the DPP who had cited the provision of section 91 (1) of the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA) as the basis of his decision. Nolle prosequi is a legal term meaning “be unwilling to pursue,” translating into “do not prosecute.”

It is used in common law criminal prosecution contexts to describe the prosecutor’s decision to voluntarily discontinue criminal charges either before trial or verdict. However, the DPP is not obliged to state the reasons behind his decision and the nolle proseq ui certificate does protect the accused against arrest and recharge with same or similar offences.

The prosecution had alleged that the accused committed the offence between April 8, 2015 and June 3, 2016.

Being public officials and employees of TPDC on various capacities, while discharging their duties, the accused allegedly intentionally abused their positions by changing and approving Annual Procurement Plan and Budget of 2014/2015 and 2015/2016.

The changes, according to prosecution, were to incorporate procurement of Airborne Gravity Gradiometer Survey in Lake Tanganyika North without obtaining an approval from TPDC Board of Directors.

The prosecution told the court further that act violated the provision of section 49 (2) of the Public Procurement Act, 2011 for the purpose of obtaining undue advantage of 3,238,986.50 US dollars (about 7bn/-) for Bell Geospace.

Bell Geospace is the exclusive provider of gravity gradiometry (3D FTG) data to the oil and gas market, fast tracking exploration work and seismic surveys.

This is being successfully used to define the oil fields and prospects in 3D, at a fraction of the cost and time of a 3D seismic survey.

The arraignment of the TPDC senior officials had come barely two years since they were suspended from duty for a number of allegations, including violating procurement laws and infringing public service regulations in the conduct of their work, by conflict of interests.

A statement signed by TPDC Board Chairman Professor Sufian Bukurura gave another reason for their suspension as switching to using budget funds without the approval of top authorities and unaccounted for important information concerning the corporation.

Prof Bukurura was quoted in the statement as saying that the suspension of the officials was reached following a meeting of the board of directors and took note of operational instances indicating the presence of misconduct by the top officials.

At the meeting, he said, the board decided on the need to suspend some top officials to pave way for investigations and whether charges ought to be preferred against the culprits.

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