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The East African : Nov 14th 2015
10 AUSTERITY MEASURES The EastAfrican NEWS NOVEMBER 14-20,2015 Zanziba≥i leade≥s in ≥econciliation talks By ERICK KABENDERA The EastAfrican ZANZIBAR’S LEADERS are seeking a political solution to the stalemate resulting from the annulment of the results of the election in the archipelago last month. The EastAfrican has learnt that opposition leader Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad of the Civic United Front met with President Ali Mohamed Shein from Chama cha Mapinduzi but details of their talks were not disclosed. Mr Hamad declared him- Tanzania’s President John Magufuli inspects a guard of honour at his swearing-in ceremony in Dar es Salaam on November 5. Pic: File Magufuli directive could save $51m but needs legal backing C≥itics say gove≥nment should ancho≥ ban on fo≥eign t≥avel in legislation, imp≥ove tax collection By ERICK KABENDERA The EastAfrican T he financially hamstrung new government of Tan- zania could save up to Tsh32 billion ($51.1 million) following the decision to suspend foreign trips for civil servants as a cost-cutting measure. However, opposition law- makers and the international community have downplayed the decision, urging the government to instead seek a long-term solution of managing fiscal discipline and expanding the domestic tax base. The directive followed President John Pombe Magufuli’s busy first week in office, which included a surprise visit to Muhimbili National Hospital, where he disbanded the board and fired its managing director for ineffectiveness. Besides the head of state instructing the Tanzania Revenue Authority to increase its tax base, he also summoned all the permanent secretaries and directed them to focus on service delivery. Expenditure associated with frequent foreign trips has been an issue of concern among the public and in parliament over the past five years, with lawmakers questioning the large numbers of civil servants travelling abroad to attend seminars and workshops seen as unimportant to the country. President Magufuli inherit- ed foreign and domestic commercial loans totalling Tsh41 trillion ($19 billion), up from Tsh11 trillion ($5.5 billion) in 2005, when his predecessor President Jakaya Kikwete was sworn in as the fourth president of Tanzania. His biggest challenge will be to repay the debt amid reduced donor support and financing expensive election promises. The revelation prompted the then chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of parliament to direct the government and CAG to conduct an audit into the matter, although a report of their findings is yet to be tabled in parliament. Seek permission to travel Premi Kibanga, the assist- ant press secretary to the president, said in a statement after President Magufuli’s meeting with PSs that civil servants would hence seek the president’s or chief secretary’s permission before travelling abroad. Besides, Tanzanian ambassadors and high commissioners will do most of the official activities. “If there is an urgent un- dertaking abroad, one could be allowed to travel after getting permission from the president or the chief secretary,” read part of the statement issued by Ms Kibanga. The directive is likely to have a huge impact on the senior civil servants who use foreign trips to earn extra income. A cross-section of civil servants who spoke to The EastAfrican said the tendency is a deeply entrenched culture in public service and that the president is likely to face massive resistance from civil servants who benefit from it. At the World Economic Fo- rum on Africa in Abuja, Nigeria, in May, for example, China, with its one-and-ahalf billion population, had the biggest entourage of 80 delegates while Tanzania had 68. The biggest losers following the directive may be airlines and travel agents since most of the civil servants going abroad on state-funded trips travel first class and business class. The market price of a business class ticket to Europe or America is $8,000 but the government pays more than $14,000 for it. Records at the ruling Cha- “We have for years been debating this issue without a solution.” Zitto Kabwe, MP-elect ma cha Mapinduzi party offices indicate that President Magufuli has travelled abroad just six times since he joined the Cabinet 20 years ago. The European Union’s am- bassador to Tanzania, Filberto Ceriani-Sebregondi, said although it was important for the government to be strict about travel expenses and expensive cars, it needs TAX GUZZLER The government’s foreign travel budget is unclear but the Controller and Auditor-General’s 2013 report shows that air travel cost the taxpayer a whopping Tsh32 billion ($16 million). In the past financial year, the Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Ministry spent Tsh21.5 billion ($10 million) on foreign trips and a meagre Tsh6.5 billion ($3.2 million) on development. The current financial situation could force the government to borrow. Faced with a similar crisis in 1985, the newly inaugurated government of president Ali Hassan Mwinyi borrowed money from a businessman and banned “unnecessary” to focus on reforms and improving efficiency in service delivery. He said it should direct its efforts to good revenue collection and expenditure reduction. Tanzania collects only 14 per cent of GDP in revenues while in regional countries this figure is 20 per cent, and only a million Tanzanians pay taxes. Zitto Kabwe, MP-elect for Kigoma Urban and a former PAC chairman, said it was not enough to give directives without creating a binding legal framework to control the practice, as well as public service reforms, to make such directives sustainable. “We have for years been de- bating this issue without a solution,” said Mr Kabwe. Civic United Front leader Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad. Pic: File self Zanzibar’s presidentelect after the national electoral body, ZEC, annulled the results and announced that fresh polls would be held in January. The annulment affected only the Zanzibar vote since the national presidential candidate, John Pombe Magufuli, was announced the winner, sparking off calls for cancellation of the results of the entire general election. On Thursday, the two Zanzibari rivals also attended a high-level meeting at State House with retired leaders — including former Tanzanian president Ali Hassan Mwinyi, former Zanzibari presidents Amani Karume and Salmin Amour, and former vicepresident Dr Mohamed Gharib Bilal. The prevailing political situation has elicited an intense debate on whether ZEC had the legal mandate to nullify the election results, with the international community maintaining that all observer missions had said in their reports that the election was free and fair. They pressed ZEC to announce the results and identify areas where irregularities were reported. Former Zanzibar attor- ney-general Othman Masoud also joined the fray, arguing that the ZEC boss had no legal powers to nullify the elections. EU ambassador Fil- berto Ceriani-Sebregondi told reporters on Thursday that there were still some questions on the legality of nullifying the election although the focus was on the political solution rather than the legal one. He said consultations were ongoing on the Isles at political and community levels. “The two contenders and other elders are consulting and we believe dialogue is the only way to solve the problem and come to a possible agreement on how to address possible irregularities and how to allow the government to be soon in place and a new president declared and sworn in,” said Mr Sebregondi. Earlier this week, Mr Ha- mad said he was drafting a list of his new Cabinet, which would start work as soon as he is declared the winner by the electoral commission. The cabinet, he said, would include CCM members as stipulated in the amended Zanzibar Constitution that introduced the Government of National Unity in 2010. CUF maintains that, be- sides winning the presidential poll, it also won many parliamentary and ward seats. It adds that it has increased its parliamentary strength in Unguja, a CCM stronghold, from four to nine seats and nine to 15 for the wards. Traditionally, CUF wins all the seats in Pemba and CCM the majority of positions in Unguja. Despite the ongoing talks, the Zanzibar government issued a statement late Thursday showing the nullification of the election had been gazetted — meaning that a re-run of the election had officially started. Meanwhile, contrary to earlier fears, Zanzibar’s tourism sector has remained resilient in the face of the political crisis, according to officials from the Tourism Commission of Zanzibar and the Zanzibar Association for Tourism Investors (Zati).
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