Dar es Salaam. Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Charles Kichere told The Chanzo on Thursday that a report on the investigation his office has been doing into the money collected through the plea bargaining arrangement will be released to the public in March 2023.
It followed reports that the office of the CAG is carrying out an investigation into the controversial arrangement implemented by the previous administration under the late President John Magufuli, with the victims of the practice reporting to have taken part in the ongoing investigation.
Speaking with The Chanzo during an exclusive interview on Thursday, CAG Kichere confirmed the report of the ongoing investigation though he pointed out that the report is far from being new information.
“It seems to me that you journalists have a short memory. This is not new information. I said when I submitted my report to President [Samia Suluhu Hassan] last year that there is going to be this investigation,” Mr Kichere said during the interview.
“So, yes, we are carrying out this investigation. The reason why we are doing it is that is part of our mandate as the office of the CAG. And we will release the report in March 2023 together with other reports just like how we do it every year,” added CAG Kichere.
In 2019, the parliament made amendments to several Tanzania’s criminal laws, introducing, among other things, the plea bargaining arrangement, defined as a negotiation in a criminal case between a prosecutor and the accused.
But the arrangement was operational two years earlier even before the amendments were passed.
Even when the arrangement was legally introduced it went into enforcement without having regulations, an important step for operation. Regulations were introduced in February 2021.
Many people who were charged with non-bailable offences like money laundering and economic sabotage were allegedly coerced into filing a plea bargaining request with the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) where they were made to pay millions to secure their freedom.
In its 2021 Human Rights Report, for instance, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) identified several key concerns it observed in the implementation of the plea bargaining arrangement.
These, among other concerns, include coercion of accused persons; misuse of power due to the leverage enjoyed by the prosecutor; reduction of the role and influence of magistrates and judges; and the risk of accused persons pleading guilty for crimes they did not commit, just so they can taste freedom again.
On April 11, 2021, the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party, in its analysis of the CAG report of that year, also criticised the manner in which the plea bargaining arrangement was being implemented with its party leader Zitto Kabwe calling it “a daylight robbery.”
CAG report showed that as of April 2021, there was a total of Sh51 billion in state coffers collected through the plea bargaining arrangement which could not be expended as there is currently no law that governs such an expenditure.
“People were unjustly treated, were framed and forced to pay for their freedom,” Mr Kabwe told a press conference in April 2021. “We suggest the formation of a presidential judicial commission that will investigate all these cases.”
Reacting to the reports that CAG was doing an investigation into money collected through the plea bargaining arrangement, Mr Kabwe said in a Twitter post on Thursday that the move is “commendable.”
“Since 2019, [ACT-Wazalendo has been] questioning this plea bargaining arrangement,” Mr Kabwe said in another Twitter post. “Eventually, the CAG has carried out an investigation into it. People should have their money back and those who abused others should be held accountable.”
Eric Kabendera, a renowned Tanzanian investigative journalist who paid Sh172 million and Sh100 million to have his tax evasion and money laundering charges respectively dropped, welcomed the CAG’s investigation with open arms, urging all affected people to take part in it.
“I was peronally asked to submit my story in writing to relevant authorities regarding the threats [former DPP] Biswalo Maganga made against me on the first after being released [from jail] and I have done so,” Kabendera, now based in the UK, said in a Twitter post.