What Bunge still wants from govt: Richmond
By ThisDay Reporter
17th November 2009
National Assembly.

The stalemate between the government and the National Assembly over the Richmond power generation scandal is now set to drag well into the new year, with major issues yet to be resolved.

The Richmond contract, part of unfinished business from the last parliamentary session, has already been deferred twice in parliament in the past three months.

Parliamentary sources say there is currently a tug-of-war between the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, and the Bunge energy and minerals committee on how the matter should be brought to a logical conclusion once and for all.

The Richmond scandal has been a source of much parliamentary controversy since November 2007, when the National Assembly appointed a probe team led by Kyela legislator Dr Harrison Mwakyembe (CCM) to investigate the scandal.

The Mwakyembe committee report led to the resignations of then prime minister Edward Lowassa and senior government ministers Nazir Karamagi and Dr Ibrahim Msabaha, in February 2008.

But the main sticking points in the ongoing impasse centre around the failure so far of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals to implement Bunge resolutions on the Richmond deal to the mutual satisfaction of members of parliament and the PMO.

A scathing report tabled in the House in August this year by the chairman of the parliamentary energy and minerals committee, William Shellukindo, led the government to defer the submission of its implementation report to November.

But the government failed yet again in November to submit its report to parliament, meaning that the matter will now drag into the new year until the next session of the National Assembly scheduled to begin on January 26, 2010.

Following are some of the key Bunge resolutions that have yet to be implemented vis-a-vis the Richmond scandal:

Dubious $4,865,000 air freight bill

Parliamentary resolution number 10 directs the Bank of Tanzania (BoT) governor and board of directors to thoroughly investigate the legality of excess payment of $4,865,000 (approx. 6.5bn/-) to Dowans Holdings A.S., which inherited the controversial power generation contract from Richmond Development Company LLC.

Parliament also instructed the government to take action against public officials who approved the dubious payment to Dowans.

In its response to the Bunge directive, the government claimed a joint investigation by the BoT and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs established that the payment of the stated excess amount was in perfect order. The government maintained that the payment was made on February 2, 2007, for air freight charges through invoice number EFD 786675. According to the government, the dubious air freight bill was approved by the Treasury, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, and the Tanzania Electric Supply Company (TANESCO).

The parliamentary energy and minerals committee has rejected the government's explanation on this matter, and is adamant in demanding action against “negligent” government officials who approved the excess payment to Dowans. According to the Bunge watchdog committee, while the approved letter of credit for the contract was for $30,696,598, Dowans was paid $35,561,598 under dubious circumstances.

The 'untouchable' Mohamed Gire

Resolution number 18 calls for criminal charges to be filed by the government against the owners of Richmond Development Company LLC and Richmond Development (Tanzania) Limited, for fraud and related offences.

Naeem Adam Gire was arraigned at the Kisutu Resident Magistrate's Court in Dar es Salaam on January 13 this year, facing five counts of forgery, uttering false documents and giving false information.

But the parliamentary energy and minerals committee faulted the government for failing to take any action against the real proprietor of  Richmond Development Company LLC, Mohamed Gire, a Tanzanian of Asian origin who lives in Houston, Texas, US.

The Bunge committee questioned the government for failing to seek Mohamed's arrest and prosecution, and further noted that Naeem - the current main accused in the Richmond criminal case - does not even have a single share in the company.

Mohamed Gire, the proprietor and chief executive officer (CEO) of Richmond Development Company LLC, signed the controversial power purchase agreement with the government in the dead of the night on June 23, 2006.

However, although it is Mohamed's signature on the contract, it is his brother Naeem being prosecuted over the deal.

The parliamentary energy and minerals committee maintains that the government's failure to prosecute Mohamed Gire means that it has failed to implement the Bunge resolution.

Government officials in Richmond deal

Resolutions number 5, 7, 9 and 14 generally call for the government to make accountable all public officials involved in the process that led to the awarding of the fraudulent contract to Richmond.

These include 16 government officials who were members of the government negotiation team, along with officers of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB).

The government maintained that its own internal disciplinary hearing has not been able to establish any corruption, criminal negligence, or abuse of public office by government officials involved in the Richmond deal.

On the other hand, the government says it has given official warnings to a number of senior government officials, including PCCB director-general Edward Hoseah, for 'mishandling' a corruption investigation into the Richmond contract.

The parliamentary energy and minerals committee has made it abundantly clear that it is not satisfied with the manner in which the government has handled this matter.

The committee accuses the government of patronage and breaching principles of natural justice, which state that no person can judge a case in which he or she is a party.

The watchdog Bunge committee said it was not particularly amused by the government's failure to send the public officials on mandatory leave, to ensure that the serious allegations of their involvement in the Richmond contract were adequately investigated.

It remains to be seen what the government will do between now and the next parliamentary session next year, to address the sticking issues in the seemingly never-ending Richmond scandal.

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