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Sunday, May 10, 2009

TweetThis! Police (Tanzania) asked to aid CIS debts recovery exercise

Police asked to aid CIS debts recovery exercise: CAG’s report also highlights issue at stake

POLICE have been called on to help debt collectors recover at least part of the 180bn/- looted from the Commodity Import Support (CIS) fund as some of the debtors appear to have turned ’hostile,’ it has been learnt.

According to the executive director of an independent debt collection company commissioned by the government to recover the CIS money, Ibrahim Msolopa, debt collectors have recently started receiving serious threats from some of the debtors.

He told THISDAY in an interview in Dar es Salaam yesterday that various prominent politicians and businessmen have resorted to threatening him and his agents to stop pestering them to repay their debts.

’’We are currently waiting for a response to our letter sent to the Ministry of Home Affairs, in request of police assistance in our task,’’ Msolopa said.

A number of high profile debtors are said to have been using harsh and threatening language when confronted to repay their loans.

Said Msolopa: ’’We will neither fear nor favour anybody. We have given them ample time to pay back the debts, but some of them have not shown any signs of paying up.’’

He said authorities have decided to postpone a plan to publicly name and shame individuals that have so far refused to honour their debts from the CIS fund.

Local businessmen, politicians, and their spouses are among the defaulters who number about 40.

It has been established that the list includes prominent local business tycoons Yusuf Manji and Rostam Aziz.

A tripartite meeting comprising senior officials from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), and the debt collection agency hired by the government to recover the CIS funds, will now determine the next move to be taken against the bad debtors.

’’The list of bad debtors will be disclosed only after holding this meeting,’’ Msolopa said.

In his latest government audit report, the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), Ludovick Utuoh, cited the Commodity Import Support (CIS) funds scam among major scandals that need to be seriously addressed by relevant authorities.

He said instead of just concentrating on the Bank of Tanzania external payment arrears (EPA) account embezzlement issue, the government should broaden its anti-corruption horizons to include scandals like the CIS funds debacle.

’’The government should not end up with EPA only. It needs to arrange for a review of other areas with identified weaknesses like the Commodity Import Support (CIF) Fund, in order to make sure that people do not squander public money,’’ said the CAG in his report.

On the EPA scandal, whereby more than 133bn/- was looted from the key BoT forex account during 2005/06, the CAG has called for an urgent review of the status of EPA liabilities to prevent more such looting from the BoT in future.

He said there is a need for the central bank to engage a consultant to conduct the review, which he described as being  of paramount importance.”

’’It is our view that the BoT should speed up the process (of engaging the consultant), in order to address the weaknesses identified in the auditors’ special report (by Ernst & Young),’’ he added.

It is understood that the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) has long been investigating the CIS funds scandal. However, the government’s anti-graft watchdog is yet to prosecute any cases related to the scam.

At least 254 of the total 916 companies linked to the CIS funds scandal are reported to have so far settled their debts -THISDAY REPORTER, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

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