Parliament Jolted By MPs Bribery Scandal

By Frank Kimboy

Dar es Salaam - Parliament is staring at a serious credibility crisis as claims of bribery of several Members of Parliament unravelled in dramatic fashion yesterday.

Speaker Job Ndugai removed three parliamentary committee chairpersons and two vice chairpersons from their leadership roles on the day that reports emerged revealing that investigations had been launched into reports that members of the affected committees had solicited for bribes from state parastatals.

The Speaker also changed membership of some 27 MPs. While a statement from the National Assembly said the changes announced by Mr Ndugai were normal, insider reports linked the move to the investigation into the bribery scandal that could tarnish the image of the 11th Parliament that is barely five months into its life.

Yesterday, Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe (Act-Wazalendo) and Hussein Bashe of Nzega (CCM) resigned from the Social Services and Community Development Committee over the reports and urged the Speaker to order a sweeping investigation into the matter to save the face of Parliament by punishing those found guilty. Reports suggested more MPs would resign to push for thorough investigations.

Those who were removed as leaders include Ms Martha Mlata, who was the chairperson of Energy and Minerals parliamentary committee. She was transferred to Parliamentary Committee on Industry and Trade as an ordinary member.

Others removed are the chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Natural Resources and Tourism, Ms Mary Mwanjelwa, who has been transferred to the Industry and Trade committee as well as Mr Richard Ndassa who was heading the Public Investment Committee (PIC). He was moved to the Constitutional Committee. The vice chairperson of the Local Authorities Accounts Committee (LAAC) Mr Kangi Lugola and his Social Services Committee counterpart Dr Raphael Chegeni were also kicked out. Media reports yesterday revealed that some parliamentary committee leaders were accused of soliciting and taking bribes from some public entities.

One of the removed chairperson was said to have obtained Sh8 million from the Energy and Water Regulatory Authority (Ewura). Agency's Information and Communication manager Titus Kaguo said yesterday he wasn't in position to comment as the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) was looking into the allegations.

"I am aware of the allegations but I can't comment because an investigation is ongoing," Mr Kaguo told The Citizen in a telephone interview. Ms Mlata, Mr Lugola and Ms Mwanjelwa have all refuted the bribery reports. Mr Chegeni hinted in an interview yesterday that more members of the blemished committees will resign and force an investigation to clear their image. "We will ask the Speaker to form a probe committee and summon the newspaper that revealed the scandal to table evidence or face prosecution," he said in an interview with Mwananchi yesterday. The MPs allegedly solicited and received the bribes from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF), Ewura, National Housing Corporation (NHC) and the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF).

Unconfirmed reports indicate that Mr Ndassa was summoned by PCCB for interrogation yesterday. In his resignation letter, Mr Kabwe called for the speaker to be bold in order to protect Parliament's image. "Speaker must send a strong message that the 11th parliament will have zero tolerance on corruption by inviting PCCB to investigate MPs," he said on his social media page.

Out of the 27 MPs who swapped committees, 13 were from the four committees which were linked to the corruption allegations. The 13 are Mr Ndassa and Mr Selemani Zedi (both from PIC).

Also in the list are four members of LAAC, who are Mr Lugola, Mr Victor Mambalaswa (both transferred to parliamentary committee on Foreign relations), Selemani Ahmed Sadick (transferred to social services and community development committee) and Mr Emmanuel Mwakasaka who has been transferred.

Others are two members of social services and community development committees Chegeni and Ms Margaret Sitta (Regional Administration and Local Authorities).

The list is completed by five members of the Land, Natural Resources and Tourism. They are Dr Mwanjelwa, Mr Sixtus Mapunda, Homoud Jumaa Regional Administration and Local Authorities, Mr Wilfred Lwakatare (energy and minerals) and Ms Boniface Getere (social services and community development committee).

Source: All Africa