The tale of Mussa Assad is an unfortunately timed misstep

Sunday April 7 2019

Tanzania parliament

Tanzania’s parliament in session. This week, the House passed a resolution not to co-operate with the Controller and Auditor General. PHOTO | EDWIN MJWAHUZI | NMG 

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One tiny little comment in a greater context and now we are having trouble with our Comptroller and Auditor General.

Prof Mussa Assad, our national bean-counter, was overseas being interviewed at a UN function and he happened to mention that if parliament doesn’t take action on the reports produced by his office, it meant they are not entirely fulfilling their duties.

It was said in a calm and reflective manner and it was easy to see that he was talking about systemic malfunctions that can have consequences for the whole country; no personal attacks were made.

Honestly, it was the kind of comment that anyone who has to keep track of a budget would make, as a result of their oversight role.

People who keep track of our public accounts—the honest ones—like everything to be clear and open. The books have to balance, all the t’s have to be crossed and the i’s dotted.

There isn’t a single citizen who doesn’t know we have historic problems with money “leaking,” making Prof Assad’s remarks about as controversial as an architect casually mentioning that if you don’t fix your roof during the dry season, your leaks will get worse when it rains.

To my surprise, our parliamentarians decided that he had disrespected the House, and ordered him to explain himself to their Ethics Committee.

Who knows how many MPs managed to savour the irony. I didn’t really follow the story because surely this was a joke and would blow over, haha right?

Turns out that it was no joke, and somehow parliament has decided it will not be working with the CAG. At least that’s the story so far, things could change within days or hours and resolve themselves – perhaps even amicably.

I admit I am confused. Like, how even? As his predecessor, Ludovick Utouh, pointed out, there is the small matter of the Constitution which has the CAG’s role specified in it. From what I have read, “temper tantrum” is not a valid reason to call the CAG to meet with Bunge.

The things I do for my readers, by the way. The National Audit Office of Tanzania has a website that is well populated but so intensely dry I needed artificial teardrops to rehydrate my little eyeballs after wading through it... so that you don’t have to?

There is a whole genre of videos online dedicated to nothing but parliamentarians fighting. I think somewhere in Asia there is even chair-throwing involved. But isn’t that where this level of agitation needs to begin and end?

Without libel or defamation being caused by anyone outside of parliament, none of this makes sense. Politicians are perfectly aware of what we think about them in private anyway, since so many of them are online. Yes, we see you.

Such a transparent attempt to get this man of principle not to reveal the findings of this year’s reports is most depressing.

Even if we hadn’t thought it before, now it just looks like our leaders are desperately trying to hide something. What, though? Si Hapa Kazi Tu?

The CAG did exactly the job he was tasked to do. Sasa? I have much respect for the collective citizenry of Tanzania, but this trope of our naiveté is played out. Election 2020 is just around the corner. The tale of Mussa Assad is an unfortunately timed misstep.

Elsie Eyakuze is a consultant and blogger for The Mikocheni Report. E-mail: [email protected]