Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Graft tsar zeroes in on IPTL kingpins

The government’s new anti-corruption tsar has warned that alleged kingpins behind the Independent Power Tanzania Ltd (IPTL) Tegeta escrow account scandal, who have thus far avoided criminal charges, will not be left untouched, saying a painstaking collection of forensic evidence was underway across multiple jurisdictions. The invigorated Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) says it now has a secret weapon in the fight against graft in the form of President John Pombe Magufuli. Valentino Mlowola, the acting director general of PCCB, who took over in December, said he was still studying files on the Tegeta escrow account investigation. “What I may admit is that most of financial and corruption cases are difficult to investigate due to the fact that the evidence is scattered from one jurisdiction to another -- local and transnational -- that requires a cumbersome and painstaking procedure,” he told The Guardian when asked why the alleged masterminds of the escrow account scandal have not appeared in court. “Everyone should realise that criminal law does not provide for limitation of time. Whoever indulges himself in crime should know this fact, that one day he will have his day in court.” The government has brought graft charges against several suspects over the Tegeta escrow account probe, but faces criticism from some opposition members of parliament for failing to book alleged kingpins of the scandal, including businessman Harbinder Singh Sethi, the purported owner of IPTL. Mlowola, who was appointed head of the government’s anti-graft watchdog after President Magufuli sacked former PCCB chief Edward Hoseah due to the slow pace of the fight against corruption, said he would leave no stone unturned in the fight against graft.  “As long as the legal framework empowers PCCB to combat graft, I don’t see any hurdle in combating grand corruption. I have the mandate to enforce the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Act number 11 of 2007; therefore I will lead my institution into that fight,” he said.  Several cabinet ministers in former president Jakaya Kikwete’s government resigned in 2014 following graft allegations connected with the Tegeta escrow account row. Lawmakers said senior government officials fraudulently authorised the transfer of at least $122 million of public funds to a private company.  The funds came from an escrow account held jointly by state power company Tanesco and IPTL and went to the latter’s disputed owner Singh, through his company, Pan Africa Power (PAP) in 2013. Government officials denied any impropriety in the transfer of the funds, and PAP said the transfer was legal. However, investigations have revealed that the transfer of funds from the escrow account was fraudulent, leading to the resignations of several cabinet members in Kikwete’s government and the filing of criminal charges.

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