Critical Analysis of PCCB (TAKUKURU) & CAG’s Reports for 2022/2023: Major Issues Were Left!

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The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau-PCCB (mostly known as TAKUKURU) and the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) report for the financial year 2022/2023 are out but have focused on minor issues, sidestepping the bigger issues as if they did not happen or were irrelevant. This discourse chronicles some of the major issues those reports should have dealt with, why those issues were skipped, and the reasons for this.

The preamble of the main reports of PCCB (TAKUKURU) and CAG highlighted major issues in their main reports. Still, the real issues were skirted in those summaries, leaving questions about whether the reports were redacted to suit political parochial interests, as we are already in the election season this year and next year, or whether a lack of relevant expertise hampers the investigative quality.

No politician worthy of his name would want the rot to be deployed by the opposition as an election issue, proffering an incentive to bury the gospel truth.

After hearing both reports, the first nagging question was who watched the watchers as they conveniently digressed self-appraisal in their reports. At least, they should have told us how much money they were spending per year to produce these ineffective reports, which look more and more like annual rituals than a concerted effort to dwarf official graft.

The PCCB (TAKUKURU) report wanted us to believe the problem of corruption is a dearth of knowledge, so they have dedicated the last year to teaching us to hate corruption! But is the problem a lack of knowledge or sheer greed for self-enrichment? I say the latter is the real culprit. Once the real bugbear has been identified, the next logical question is, can we teach people to despise greed? The answer is in negativity, I am afraid.

The PCCB did not say how much money was razed in sensitization seminars and workshops. That was vital to meter cost-benefit analysis to determine whether such a tactic works and the worth of the perspiration. The best way to teach people against the vices is through criminal deterrence.

Regarding criminal deterrence, PCCB exercised convenient amnesia when circumventing what was wrong with the judiciary. Most high crimes are dismissed on dubious technicalities, and where sentencing is opted, lenient sentencing defeats the end of justice, but they overlooked this in their reporting.

PCCB (TAKUKURU) talked at length about minor issues, such as the misuse of land use in the construction of petrol stations, but did not say what she did about it or why doing nothing was a preferred option. They Lauded the government for sanctioning over 300 new mouths to feed them but did not say in which areas those recruits would strengthen her.

This public entity’s problem has never been staffing numbers but manpower misallocation and underutilization of the latest technologies for fighting white-collar crimes where the real damage occurs. Most of the staff covers very few areas of expertise, leaving vital areas such as forensic auditing and engineering fields overly underrepresented. Their reported failure to convict criminal suspects without sufficient evidence supports this averment.

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PCCB groused about unsuccessful criminal prosecutions because of a lack of crucial evidence. However, they did not evaluate whether she had the right technical balance to unearth the missing evidence to bolster her criminal cases. Public theft of funds is done through the banking system, which leaves a well-documented trail, and failing to convict on a lack of evidence indicates that there is some mileage to cover on the technical staffing balancing act.

More than the PCCB one, CAG’s report had the hallmarks of a doctored report or expertise deficiencies. Many areas appeared redacted with disjointed or deliberately expunged parts, glaring in the eye. We know the report was miserably, and I refuse to attribute that to lack of expertise alone.

I will cite a few examples to drive this point home. CAG says the Tanzania National Roads Agency’s (TANROADS) loss was occasioned by over Tshs 60 billion due to late or non-payment of fuel waiting charges that TANROADS had bought. CAG did not peek at the cost of road construction per kilometre, where most of the losses are.

Neither did CAG look at a long list of disputes TANROADS is involved in and the magnitude of the potential losses to be incurred. CAG had nothing to say about project delays and who was behind them. Of more significance, CAG saw nothing wrong with the shoddy works that TANROADS certified daily and accomplished projects! CAG did not assess the impact of poorly completed projects behind the massive collapse of road infrastructure during the rainy season.

I think TANROADS projects are notorious for poorly designed projects; both the CAG and PCCB have made no effort to beef up their capacity building in this portfolio. We always see bridges erroneously designed to block water passage, consuming billions of shillings only to be washed away by marauding waters! Neither PCCB nor CAG sees this as a major technical deficiency stoking the official graft, which it is.

Money allocated to build tarmac roads ends up building morram roads sprayed with bitumen, which is increasingly common. Still, neither PCCB nor CAG has the expertise to address this growing problem in the construction industry. The quality of contractors and those who own those firms have never surfaced in their reportage despite contributing to the majority of problems in the mega losses in the construction industry.

Perhaps areas where both PCCB and CAG intentionally skipped included a refusal to assay the leasing of Dar es Salaam port to DP WORLD, the staggering cost of Nyerere dam, the sustainability of the Lake Victoria project that pipe water to arid areas such as Shinyanga, which is now earmarked for expansion despite sustaining heavy losses, among others.

The public was transfixed with foreign trips and medical treatment abroad from public leaders, but the reports wanted nothing to do with them! These controversies occupied the nation during the year of assessment, and paying them a blind eye tells us more about the lack of independence of these watchdogs.

Both PCCB and CAG reneged even to evaluate the performance of their past reports! The logical argument has to be why you undergo this ritualistic exercise every year if you are not willing to consider whether it is worth the effort.

CAG decried the lack of communication between the Tanzania Rural and Urban Roads Agency (TARURA) on one hand and Water authorities and TANESCO on the other hand, which led to completed road projects being damaged to pass water pipes and electric pylons. CAG recommended better communication among those institutions. I recommend that both PCCB and CAG, too, need to communicate between themselves.

I say so because PCCB, albeit, made a casual passing to the implementation of CAG’s previous report, but the latter did not follow suit! One would have thought CAG ought to use PCCB’s reports to narrow areas of investigations. CAG clean reports are based on the quality preparation of the audited reports, but the criterion alone is misleading because it intentionally obfuscates criminal acts.

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One entity may get a clean report based on preparatory works, but adherence to budgetary allocations and achieving budgetary goals may not be sufficient. I counsel the other two variables to assume three-quarters of the criteria for issuing clean auditing certificates. The substance of audited reports rather than procedures in preparing audited reports ought to be an overriding criterion for issuing clean reports.

This year’s reports want us to believe the police were squeaky clean, and we all know that is far from true. These reports were silent on the procurement of new trains and wagons. The public heard everything was not going well, but our watchers said nothing. The reports on the ongoing saga of SGR were mute. The project has been mired in labour and late payment disputes but looks inconsequential. We deserved a word from our watchers.

CAG noted a sizeable number of parastatals violated laws that required them to ensure all revenues were collected through the government but did not see a nexus between that and the loss-making firms that flouted this law. I see a direct connection there that part of the losses were due to money collected unaccounted for attributed to those losses.

As the Parliament is hammering new election laws, one would have thought both reports should have pointed out that the main reason for local government to permeate the embezzling of public funds was its politicization through election laws. Past reports augmented by these doctored reports indicate that presidential appointments of District Executive Directors (DEDs) and their role in elections stoke massive theft, looting and abuse of public office in the local governments are caused by turning them into politicians.

The reports would have done us a big service by recommending that councillors employ the DEDs’ offices and all employees under local governments. Councillors should be their appointment and disciplinary authority, and councillors in their territorial jurisdictions should employ only residents in their areas to reduce the lack of know-how and sensitivity in the current setup. So long as DEDs manage our elections on behalf of the National Electoral Commission of Tanzania (NEC), we should expect grand graft in local governments to persevere because they are untouchables.

The PCCB, CAG and judiciary offices have been structured to perpetuate grand graft while dealing harshly with minor offenders. A thief caught with a few pieces of wild meat will spend the rest of her adult life behind bars, but heinous criminals are soothed with penalties that mock the criminal indictments in the first, and nobody seems to care!

As a result, criminal deterrence is too weak to change behaviour. No wonder PCCB is unashamed to take us on the conveyor belt of teaching us to spite vices and is apprehensive of long-overdue radical internal reforms that may quake even their legitimacy to exist in the first place!

As a parting shot, CAG casually ruled that the national debt to the GDP is bearable. I say he is brazenly misleading us! Since the GDP is a mere estimate and does not pay our national debts, I encourage him in the future to use annual servicing of debt by a percentage of the recurrent budget to determine whether such a gargantuan debt is tolerable.

Let us stop applying an arcane GDP variable condemned to the vagaries of political manipulation to cover our insane appetite to borrow and spend beyond our means at the chagrin of future generations. The Parliament, too, needs to legislate a ceiling for the annual servicing of the national debt as a percentage of the national recurrent budget.

I propose the annual servicing of the national debt should not exceed one-third of the national recurrent budget. That way, we may learn to be frugal and responsible, and perhaps that will act as an official bulwark against a new trend of rewarding national leaders with insane compensation packages.

The author is a Development Administration specialist in Tanzania with over 30 years of practical experience, and has been penning down a number of articles in local printing and digital newspapers for some time now.

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