Dar es Salaam. The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) is yet to announce the buyer of its Dege Eco Village project in Kigamboni, almost a month since the winner of the tender for the controversial investiment should have been announced.
NSSF announced on October 21, 2022, that it was disposing of the project, estimated to be worth $653 million (about Sh1.3 trillion), and prospective buyers had until November 14, 2022, to express their interests.
In its announcement, NSSF said the winner would be announced on the same date – November 14 – during a meeting it’d convene with all tenderers at the 7th floor of the Benjamin William Mkapa Pension Towers (Tower B) in the city centre.
But as of writing, the name of the buyer of the project that the Parliamentary Accounts Committee (PAC) in 2021 flagged as “a risk” has not been released to the public.
The Chanzo’s efforts to get hold of the name bore no fruit after senior officials at NSSF declined to answer our questions regarding to the matter.
This reporter first visited NSSF’s headquarters on November 15, 2022, to inquire about the sale of the project but received no answers from the organisation’s public relations department. He has been following it up ever since with no success.
The Chanzo also sought to get answers from NSSF’s director general Masha Mshomba but received none at all after the official has declined to pick up our calls or reply to our messages sent to his WhatsApp number.
Our reporter also visited NSSF’s website – https://www.nssf.go.tz/– to see if it has posted any update on the sale of the project but found no useful information regarding the matter.
Contract fraudulently entered
In its October 21, 2022, notice, NSSF did not explain why it was selling the project to a prospective investor.
But its intention to dispose of the mega investment comes almost seven years after NSSF admitted that its contract with Azimio Housing Estates to form Special Purpose Vehicle Company, Hifadhi Builders Limited, was “fraudulently entered.”
Speaking during a meeting with members of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on October 26, 2016, then NSSF director general Prof Godius Kahyarara said that their initial probe into the matter unearthed massive flaws in the contract.
For instance, he pointed out, the project area was only 3,503 acres and not 20,000 acres, according to a report by The Citizen newspaper.
“Again, the price of the plots was massively overrated, for according to contract, one acre was valued at Sh800 million,” the paper quoted Kahyarara as saying. “But our valuation indicates that the actual price of an acre is Sh25 million.”
NSSF’s announcement that it was selling the project also came almost seven years of no activity at the project’s site in Rasi Dege, Kigamboni, where over 20,000 acres of land were expected to be developed to cater for Dar’s real estate needs.
Charles Makakala is a Dar es Salaam-based management consultant and one of the few people who have commented on the Dege Eco Village saga since NSSF decided to sell it off.
He told The Chanzo during an interview that it is not normal for NSSF to remain this quiet about the buyer of its Dege Eco Village, pointing out that tradition requires that the winner of the tender is announced as soon as the tender is closed.
“It is very surprising that as we speak NSSF is yet to announce the winner of the tender,” Makakala, a frequent contributor to The Chanzo, said in an interview. “My theory is that there is no winner.”
This is not because nobody may have expressed an interest in acquiring the project but Makakala believes that the reason could be that the people behind the Dege Eco Village project are just not ready to see their interests evaporating in a thin air.
“Secrecy does not benefit this country and its people,” Mr Makakala said on the need of ensuring transparency when it comes to public financing.
“Transparency helps experts and the public in general to investigate issues and be in a better position to give their opinions,” he added.
Lukelo Francis is The Chanzo journalist based in Dar es Salaam Tanzania. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.