Tanzania: Concern As Cag Office Budget Slashed By Half

Dar es Salaam - The budget of the office of the Controller and Auditor General (CAG) is set to be slashed by half.

Finance minister Philip Mpango will tomorrow table the Treasury's 2016/17 budget, which has allocated Sh32.3 billion for the National Audit Office of Tanzania (Naot). This is down from the Sh63.5 billion budget approved for the office for the current financial year.

A budget of Sh57.4 billion was approved for Naot for 2014/15, but the Treasury released only Sh35.3 billion to the agency. It remains to be seen how the decision to slash Naot's budget for the next financial year will affect President John Magufuli's crackdown on corruption and theft of public funds.

The agency has been a key player in efforts to curb corruption in recent years, with its annual and specialised audit reports revealing the loss of tens of billions of shillings in central and local governments and as well as in public parastatals.

This being the case, it was expected that President Magufuli's government would have proposed a generous budget for Naot.

In 2012, the CAG's annual report prompted President Jakaya Kikwete to sack six Cabinet ministers after their dockets were adversely mentioned in the document. Those dropped were Mr Mustafa Mkulo (Finance), Mr William Ngeleja (Energy and Minerals), Mr Ezekiel Maige (Natural Resources and Tourism), Dr Cyril Chami (Industry and Trade), Mr Omari Nundu (Transport) and Dr Hadji Mponda (Health).

In 2014, the CAG's damning report on the Tegeta escrow account scandal was used by Parliament's Public Accounts Committee to build a case against Attorney General Frederick Werema, Cabinet ministers Anna Tibaijuka (Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development) and Sospeter Muhongo (Energy and Minerals) and Energy and Minerals Permanent Secretary Eliakim Maswi, who all lost their positions.

The CAG, Prof Mussa Assad, told The Citizen yesterday that the performance of his office would be adversely affected by any decision to reduce its budget.

"A lot of important work will be stalled. We won't be able to perform all the required audits within and outside the country," he said, adding that he did not rule out the possibility of some of his staff seeking employment elsewhere.

According to the Treasury's budget proposals seen by The Citizen, allocation for the Ministerial Audit Division has been slashed from Sh8.4 billion to Sh4.4 billion, while the Local Government Authorities Audit Division's budget is down to Sh6.5 billion from S7.5 billion.

The budget for the Administration and Human Resources Division has been reduced from the Sh20.2 billion approved for 2015/16 to Sh6.9 billion.

Allocation for the National Account Division has been cut from Sh7.4 billion to Sh3.1 billion, the Performance Audit Division is to be allocated S.7 billion, down from Sh2.8 billion, while the Public Authorities Audit Division's budget has been reduced from S.6 billion to S.5 billion.

Reacting to the development, Kigoma Urban MP Zitto Kabwe said the first casualty of the decision was the wider anti-corruption struggle and the independence of Naot, which is a constitutional entity.

"This will cripple the CAG's office. Parliament's Budget Committee wanted a total of Sh69 billion to be approved for Naot. With this meagre budget, the CAG will fail to conduct important audits and taxpayers will be in the dark as to how their money was spent," he said.

The opposition politician said it was illogical for the government to increase its budget from Sh22 trillion to Sh29 trillion and at the same time slash allocation for the Naot, which is an important tool in monitoring public expenditure.

Last month, Prof Assad told journalists in Dodoma while unveiling the 2014/15 annual reports that Naot needed continuous budgetary support for it to operate efficiently.

Source: The Citizen