Some members of Tanzania’s parliamentary committee on social services have resigned and petitioned the speaker of parliament to launch a thorough investigation into allegations that certain lawmakers solicited bribes from state-run enterprises.
A majority of the accused lawmakers are members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party of President John Magufuli. Tanzanians say the allegations, if proven to be true, undermine ongoing efforts by the president to combat corruption in public institutions, as promised ahead of the last presidential election.
But government information minister Nape Nnauye says the parliamentarians he contacted denied taking bribes. Nnauye, who is also a member of parliament, said Magufuli will not be deterred in the fight to weed out graft.
Nnauye’s remarks came after Job Ndugai, the speaker of parliament, reshuffled some parliamentary committees, removing some parlimentarians from leadership positions. Newspapers have speculated that the reshuffle was prompted by the allegations of corruption. Ndugai denied this in a statement.
Local media also reported that members of the parliamentary committee on social services were allegedly offered paper bags full of cash meant as bribes from the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF). The reports say that the allegations forced members of the committee to resign and demand an investigation.
Nnauye said the parliamentary privileges, ethics and powers committee could soon begin investigating the allegations of bribery made against lawmakers.
“I met some of the members [of parliament] and they have resigned from those standing committees and they said these allegations are too big for us to continue being members of the committee,” said Nnauye. "We want serious investigations so that this thing can be put into black and white."
Tanzanians say those found guilty should be made to face the full rigors of the law to demonstrate that corruption will not be tolerated in the society. They said sweeping the allegations under the carpet would defeat the purpose of the fight against graft.
Nnauye said it is likely that the ruling CCM party will take action against those found guilty. He cited an example where Magufuli issued a 12-hour ultimatum to some officials who failed to sign an ethics form or get fired. He said similar action would be taken against lawmakers found guilty of bribery.
He said most of the members of parliament mentioned in the scandal are coming from his own CCM party.
"If these allegations are proved [to be true], I think this party cannot keep quiet," he added. "We will take some actions on this because we see this fifth-term government has this spirit of fighting corruption, and we can’t allow members of parliament to be involved in corruption and keep quiet. I think some steps will be taken."
“In the fight against corruption [previously] we were lacking political will," added Nnauye. "[But] here is a man with the political will. He has shown it. He went all over the country in the campaign and said we are going to fight corruption. He stayed away from businessmen during his campaign and this was to ensure that he is safe so that when he goes there he will fight corruption.”