Kikwete fires Tibaijuka for taking $1 million payment


Anna Tibaijuka. By sacking Ms Tibaijuka, the minister for Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, for failing to observe what he referred to as “public leadership ethics” and by ordering an investigation into the role of other senior officials implicated in the scandal, Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete bucked a trend that is pervasive in Kenya and Africa in general. FILE PHOTO |

Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete fired a senior cabinet minister on Monday over an energy sector graft scandal that has already led to the resignation of the country’s attorney general.

Kikwete said he had dismissed Anna Tibaijuka, minister of lands, housing and human settlements development, for accepting a $1 million payment from a Tanzanian businessman (James Rugemalira) linked to a controversial energy deal.

Tibaijuka, 64, a former under-secretary-general of the United Nations and executive director of the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), had rejected calls for her resignation from parliament, saying the money was a donation for a school where she serves as the main fundraiser.

“There were ethical shortfalls in her conduct… that is why we agreed to ask the minister to give us the opportunity to appoint someone else in her position,” Kikwete said in a national address late on Monday.

“One of the biggest questions raised is why this money was not paid directly to the school and was instead deposited in a personal bank account in her name.”

Tibaijuka said she had received the donation in good faith and presented it to the school.

The Tanzanian president said the government was still investigating allegations of impropriety against the country’s energy minister and his permanent secretary and would make a decision on their fate after the conclusion of the probe.

READ: The mystery Kenyan Kanu-era tycoon who shook Tanzania .

Tanzania’s parliament last month called for the dismissal of senior officials, including the lands and energy ministers, over graft accusations.

Attorney General Frederick Werema resigned on December 17, becoming the first political casualty in the scandal that has led Western donors to delay aid and weakened the country’s currency.

The attorney general denied any wrongdoing and said he was stepping down because his legal advice on the transfer of at least $122 million of public funds to a private company was misunderstood.

The funds came from an escrow account held jointly by state power company TANESCO and independent power producer IPTL and went to IPTL’s owner, Pan Africa Power (PAP) in 2013.

Kikwete on Monday defended the transfer of funds, saying there was no wrongdoing by government officials in the deal and PAP said the payment was legal.

A group of 12 international donors have said they will only pay outstanding pledges of budget support worth nearly $500 million to aid-reliant Tanzania if the report of the graft investigation is published and appropriate action is taken. -- Reuters