I switched off the TV and looked at the blank screen as if some magical image would suddenly leap out to make me watch again. I have followed the budget speech religiously every June, waiting for the sitting finance minister to announce earth-shattering money news that would make many citizens rich in half a decade or less.
Whenever I was out of the country I would request friends to send me the ‘Daily Noise’ edition with the full speech. I would read it like it was our prayer for eternal salvation.
I hungered and thirsted for that speech like the proverbial well of Siloam, hoping it would cure ordinary Tanzanians from their thirst for prosperity. Alas, it is only extra-ordinary citizens and some investors who seem too well-fed and not thirsty.
I have done my share of reading the report of sinful deeds prepared by the general auditor every year and can safely say it is the sinful taxes that are causing sinful expenditures.
How can one expect money obtained from taxing the vices of mankind such as drinking, smoking, and gambling or chatting with official and stolen partners could bring prosperity to citizens of Bongoland?
Every year our local finance gurus fall short of new ideas to raise government revenue without dangling more taxes on our necks. We expect they will keep taxing beer, spirits, soft drinks, lotteries and telephone calls and every year they never disappoint. Go on guys.
Tax fuels, electricity, water and salaries. And while you are at it, tax the air we breathe too. And create a new tax for farting in public. Cha! So listening to the minister deliver the main budget speech for hours is pretty much a waste of time. The long speeches over the years are justifications for whatever changes made to previous budget allocations. Those long speeches cost much money to print.
How many trees are used up to produce all the documents needed for the two-month budget session every year? Is the budget worth the paper it is written on? I am not sure anymore. Judging from past reports of the auditor general, there are serious problems how allocated funds are sinfully spent and how expended amounts are craftily accounted for. Does the budget really reflect the needs of Tanzanians or does the budget reflect the costly business of running government civil service?
It would seem some civil servants are so civil they have no problem in allocating lots of money for buying fancy office furnishings that raise the profile of ministerial bosses but contribute zero to improving maternal health or educating present generations. When it comes to expenditure, does any department seriously follow the budget line items as approved by parliament?
Let us take a few examples from the 2010/11 report of the comptroller and auditor general (CAG) for ministries. Did I not tell you I read such reports? Here we go. The CAG found ministries did not comply with the public sector accounting standards or with the procurement laws and regulations. Many ignored the CAG’s recommendations from previous years.
Some named ministries paid more than 8.07 billion/- without proper supporting documents and information to substantiate their authenticity, out of which 5.25 billion/- was spent by the education ministry and 1.35 billion/- was spent by public service management ministry. Central government ordered and paid for goods worth over 31.0 billion/- , goods that were not delivered. Salaries amounting to 142.7 million/- was paid to ghost workers.
Outstanding loans issued by the government as at June 30, 2011 were 480,229,660,682/-. Were such debt collected on time or at all, it could save lives and livelihoods. With regard to pension funds, the CAG found overstated terminal benefits totalling 539.2 million/-.
Was this an isolated occurrence or are overstated and understated benefits the norm? How can one be sure what was actually paid to retirees and terminated employees whose benefits were overstated during processing? Could some of it be siphoned off? The reason Tanzania is not seeing significant improvement in the lives of ordinary folks is not because money is not allocated but because of the awful ways such money is spent. And the dubious ways public monies are accounted for.
And how many ministers will report how they already punished those who were in-charge of expenditure of unapproved, unplanned funds, or unaccounted for monies. The CAG already identified what monies were misspent where and how much. We know who are the designated requesting, authorising/approving officers.
Why are some provinces and departments forming task forces and committees of inquiry to investigate the very sins already identified by CAG? We have a competent office of the CAG which does not need second opinion. Even though the cancer of graft has spread into all body parts of the Tanzania nation, the treatment is pretty straight forward surgical removal of all cancerous elements.
The president has appointed ministers and provincial commissioners to be general surgeons. They must do the job quickly before we all perish. Perhaps there are other Tanzanians who love this country a lot much more than elected officials who have chosen to tune out of the budget session of parliament because it seems like business as usual. The budget session will be over in August and then government bosses will have licence to spend. Like James Bond’s licence to kill.
Throughout history, sinners the world over live as if God’s Ten Commandments handed to Moses were the ten suggestions. In Tanzania, public servants -- with their different political affiliations -- have been treating public funds as if approved budgets are spending suggestions.
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