THE Minister of State in the President's Office for Public Service Management, Ms Hawa Ghasia, has confirmed that the chief executive officer of the Tanzania National Roads Agency (TANROADS), Ephraim Mrema, was unlawfully appointed to the post.
"Since laws and procedures were breached ... it is clear that Mr. Ephraim C. Mrema was appointed through a dubious process and not based on merits," said Ghasia in a letter to the Minister for Infrastructure Development, Dr Shukuru Kawambwa.
In the document dated October 22, 2008, just a year into Mrema's hugely controversial appointment, Ghasia advised the Ministry of Infrastructure Development to ask the Chief Secretary at State House, Philemon Luhanjo, to appoint a probe committee to investigate the matter.
"If the committee establishes that his (Mrema's) professional conduct is questionable or his appointment affects the agency's (TANROADS') efficiency, the President should be advised to annul his appointment," said Ghasia.
The role of the President's Office for Public Service Management is to assist the Chief Secretary as the head of the public service in Tanzania on matters of personnel and administration.
Specific functions of the office include advising ministries on personnel issues, instilling and maintaining ethical behaviour and a high level of integrity among public servants.
Surprisingly, no action has thus far been taken against the CEO now increasingly being known in government circles as "Mr. Untouchable" despite official advice from the President's Office for disciplinary action.
Apart from lacking qualifications for the post as announced by the government, Mrema has been accused of blatant insubordination against his superiors in government.
Following Ghasia's advice, a special committee was eventually appointed by Kawambwa in April last year and the team also concluded that the appointment of the current TANROADS boss was unlawful.
The TANROADS row erupted after a former deputy finance minister, Kilontsi Mporogomyi, declared in Parliament that Mrema was not competent for the job and his appointment had been dubious.
According to the report findings of the committee seen by THISDAY, Mrema was appointed by a “search committee” in a highly secretive manner.
This came after the recruitment exercise was abruptly hijacked from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), which was initially commissioned by the government to conduct the search for the CEO in a transparent and competitive manner.
Mrema did not meet any of the four selection criteria as advertised in local newspapers in 2006, including the requirement for a post-graduate degree in civil engineering, transport economics, or highway engineering, as well as senior management credentials.
The committee also firmly established that the incumbent CEO lacked the minimum 20 years experience in road sector operations and 10 years of successful performance at top management levels required for the job.
Mrema was appointed chief of the government's roads agency by the former Minister of Infrastructure Development, Andrew Chenge, on June 4, 2007.
According to his appointment letter, he was to serve as CEO of TANROADS for a period of three years. This means that his tenure was scheduled to officially end on June 3, 2010.
It is understood that contrary to his job contract, Mrema signed up for a five-year renewable contract for the same position.
"He (Mrema) is truly Mr Untouchable in government. He was appointed unlawfully, extended his tenure from three to five years, doesn't follow orders from his superiors and nobody can touch him," a well-placed public official told THISDAY.
The Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) is already investigating a number of contracts and procurement decisions at TANROADS.
Likewise, the parliamentary infrastructure committee recently demanded explanations from Minister Kawambwa on a 300bn/- mountain debt at TANROADS.
In a related development, the Vice-Chairman of TANROADS' board of directors, Dr Samuel Nyantahe, urged Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda to intervene in the row.
In an April 12, 2010, letter to the PM, Nyantahe questioned the government's ongoing failure to take action against the seemingly untouchable TANROADS chief.
"How can a public service official (Mrema) exhibit blatant insubordination behaviour and get away with it?" Asked the vice-chairman of TANROADS' board in the letter to the PM.
"How does a system continue to condone the actions of a public official who refuses to obey lawful orders on the pretext of having been so instructed by the Head of State, even after it is subsequently proved there were no such directives from the Head of State?"