Tanzanian President John Magufuli, who has won citizens’ praise for his tough stance against government inefficiencies and corruption, has warned the Arusha-based East African Community (EAC) Secretariat that he will watch keenly how the institution carries out its activities.
Tanzania’s term as chair of the EAC was extended at the just concluded regional heads of State Summit in Arusha, where he lashed out at the Secretariat on its lavish spending on meetings and travels, accusing it of reaping off the region’s poor instead of working for them.
“The budget the Secretariat is spending per head in this hotel [Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge] to host us for this Summit could have been saved to do other important things for the poor people in the EAC,” said President Magufuli, adding that “the Secretariat could have saved at least $20 per head if the Summit was held at the EAC headquarters.”
He also accused the regional office of only drafting positive proposals to make money and not those that benefit the poor people in EAC.
“The Secretariat has become the complainer and not the problem solver when their mandate is to work on behalf of the partner states and help the poor people in the region,” he added.
Dr Magufuli has implemented a swathe of austerity measures and crackdowns on public corruption in Tanzania since his inauguration on November 5, including restricting foreign travel by officials, allowances for seminars and meetings as well as lavish cocktails and dinners by public institutions. He has also dismissed several officials as a sign of his determination to fight corruption.
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To the new EAC Secretary-General, Burundi’s Libérat Mfumukeko, the Tanzanian leader cautioned him that his mandate was to save the poor people, adding “You are not special.”
It is expected that the Magufuli’s strict, hands-on approach against corruption will reach beyond Tanzania and work in cleaning up the Community’s institutions.
Internal and external audits have in the past raised questions about financial mismanagement at the EAC Secretariat.
A internal audit by the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) last year found that as much as $10 million had been misused or mismanaged even as the Community struggles to raise money from member states and donors to meet its budget.
The audit found that the Secretariat overspent on some activities without seeking approval from the Council of Ministers. The most notable over-expenditure was on international air tickets and per diems, which were 300 per cent of the budgeted amount.
The Secretariat has also been accused of flouting procurement rules and human resource policies abetting the misuse of money at the EAC Secretariat.