“There were no financial or economic problems. It was a legal issue which didn’t concern us”

Which reminds one of the other old saw – for my friends anything; for my enemies, the law!

It had to happen. The Kilimo Kwanza – Agriculture First – programme is getting stuck in the ever so sticky web of our political and business elites. The involvement of businessmen Yusuf Manji and Jeetu Patel in Kilimo Kwanza has been receiving some limited coverage. Jeetu Patel of course is facing six charges of grand corruption –  including a charge of theft of nearly 32 billion shillings from the Bank of Tanzania’s External Payments Account.

Habari Leo had one story on it last year. This week’s Raia Mwema has a different take. Time to paraphrase.

So when you want to use a concessionary loan of almost USD 40m, who do you call? Firstly, call the troops. Or in our case, Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa –  the National Service,  get in touch with their commercial wing – SUMA JKT – and give them the USD 40m contract to purchase and distribute tractors.

So who do you award the supply tender to? Jeetu Patel and Yusuf Manji, of course! Or at least those they represent, with the bulk of the contract going to the oddly named Escorts Agri-Machinery Group represented in Tanzania by Jeetu – the remainder (we’re not told how small a share) to Manhindra Tractors represented by Manji– both from India.

Originally Manji denied that he was in any way unhappy with this – and was quoted last year as saying so in a prominent story in the state owned Habari Leo (a story that is not available on their website, for some reason).

Now Raia Mwema has a different story, claiming that one of the two businessmen (I wonder which one?) is using his networks and contacts in government to delay the deal. The Ministry of Finance gives its usual ‘Problem? What Problem?’ response. Permanent Secretary Ramadhani Kijjah is quoted as saying that Exim Bank, the outfit processing the loan, had requested “a legal opinion from the government and we had to send that request to the AG’s office. We have now got that opinion and sent it to Exim Bank. When they get it they’ll let us know if they are happy or not”.

So what do we have? A concessionary loan tied to purchase of Indian produced tractors; the tractors to be bought and distributed by the military; and the principal supplier has an agent currently facing a USD24 m. corruption charge.

Agriculture First?

If you’re interested, full translation of the Raia Mwema story below.

Manji, Jeetu Patel Play with Government, delay Kilimo Kwanza Tractors.

The tractor component of the national agriculture programme, Kilimo Kwanza, has stalled, from what is understood to be a conflict between two businessmen – Yusuf Manji and Javantkumar Chandubhai Patel (Jeetu Patel), Raia Mwema has discovered.

Raia Mwema’s investigation has discovered that tension between Jeetu and Manji has greatly contributed to the delay in getting the tractors for Kilimo Kwanza – tractors worth 50 billion shillings.

Reports indicate that  some government officials have been used by the network of one of these businessmen to delay and thereby sabotage the process of releasing the funds for the tractors.

The project which had been handed over to the Jeshi la Kujenga Taifa (JKT) by way of its company SUMA JKT, should have started early this year, but there is no sign of this due to legal complications that have necessitated the attention of the Attorney General.

Raia Mwema has confirmed that the two Indian companies which responded to the tender of which one got by far the greatest part of the contract to supply the tractors, are satisfied with the tender. But the problem is between their two agents in the country, Manji and Patel. .

This issue is understood to have involved senior government officials before the Attorney General became involved and to direct that a report be sent to the Ministry of Finance.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance, Ramadhani Kijjah, told Raia Mwema that his Ministry was in no way connected to the delay in the Kilimo Kwanza process rather the delay was due to legal advice from the Attorney General’s office, something which has now been resolved.

“There were no financial or economic problems. It was a legal issue which didn’t concern us. People at Exim Bank, who were managing the loan, wanted a legal opinion from the government and we had to send that request to the AG’s office. We have now got that opinion and sent it to Exim Bank. When they get it they’ll let us know if they are happy or not”, said Kijjah.

Kijjah said that this money is a loan from the Indian government via Exim Bank at a concessional rate and that it will be repaid by all Tanzanians when it is dues so the government must be satisfied with its use at every stage.

There have been different views concerning the way the government has dealt with the issue of the purchase of the tractors. This arises from the involvement of businessmen who have been involved in various scandals  including the famous scandal of the theft from the External Payments Account of the Bank of Tanzania (EPA).

At the end of last year, some news outlets quoted Manji who spoke in depth concerning the Kilimo Kwanza tractors tender. But Jeetu Patel has remained silent on the issue and avoided getting involved.

When Raia Mwema asked Jeetu Patel about this, he denied all knowledge and claimed that his in no way involved with this tender and so has nothing to say. “I know nothing about this business. I have nothing to say or do you want me to kid you?”

On his part, Manji reported that he is not satisfied with the tender process which is thought to be due to competition between these two businessmen arising from the commission they would likely get from the Indian companies.

For this project, Jeetu is thought to be the Tanzania representative of Escort Company, which has its headquarters in India and which won the tender. Manji is thought to be the representative of the Mahindra Company, also of India, which won only a small part of th supply tender.

Nevertheless, later Manji, owner of the Quality Group of companies, was quoted by Habari Leo as saying that he was satisfied with the tender process and to deny initial reports that he wanted to reveal what he knows in order to dirty the names of those involved including JKT.

Initially, it was explained that the tractor tender had gone through all stages up to the Cabinet and to be approved  for implementation by the Minister of Defence Dr. Hussein Mwinyi who was quoted as saying that there were no problems with the implementation of this project unless there someone wants to dirty anothers name for personal reasons.

Dr. Mwinyi was quoted as saying that more than ten companies applied for the tender and that all stages were gone through carefully and that anyone who complains is doing so for their own personal reasons.

Rwaia Mwema, January 6, 2010

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One response to ““There were no financial or economic problems. It was a legal issue which didn’t concern us”

  1. ‘The CCM
    government wants to convince Tanzanians and donors that Kilimo Kwanza
    is about agriculture first and foremost, when in fact it is about
    politics: ‘Siasa Kwanza’. What is distressing is that the Kikwete
    government thinks Tanzanians and donors are fools, that they can’t see
    though the KK ‘vision’ to what lies underneath, namely a gigantic
    exercise in corruption and patronage. Perhaps, on reflection, the
    donors are fools, especially those who have put serious money in the
    ASDP and now are promising more for KK. Or are they into some of the
    deals, like the one you presented in your story.
    Keep it up!
    Ashura,
    Law Student

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