Dar es Salaam. Tanzanians are not pleased with the state of public accountability in the country, which contributes to the current unsatisfactory level of social and economic development registered by the East African nation.
This feeling was evident on Monday during a forum organised by The Chanzo in the city to discuss the state of public accountability in the country, the 2023/2024 government budget, and the 10 per cent local government loans.
Dubbed The Chanzo Specials, the forum attracted over 300 participants from civil society, political parties, the government, and the private sector. Supported by the Good Financial Governance Programme which is implemented by GIZ and co-funded by Germany, Switzerland and European Union ,the forum aimed at driving conversations around the three critical topics at the heart of Tanzania’s developmental journey.
In his keynote address, former Controller and Auditor General (CAG) Ludovick Utouh pointed out that the current state of affairs concerning public accountability can be attributed to the lack of political will by those in power.
“I’ve to be honest with you on this issue of public accountability; there is no culture of public officials holding themselves accountable in case of inappropriateness,” said Mr Utouh, who doubles as the Executive Director of Wajibu – Institute of Public Accountability, a nonprofit promoting the culture of accountability in the country.
“It is infrequent to find a certain public official steps down because some inappropriateness has been reported under his or her docket in Tanzania,” Mr Utouh added. “This is a major weakness our leaders should reflect on and avoid.”
Mr Utouh, who worked as CAG between 2006 and 2014, also took issue with how lightly people perceive the subject of public accountability, something he said should change if the national developmental initiatives are to bear any fruit.
“As many Tanzanian citizens as possible need to understand the concept of public accountability, for only after understanding it can they be able to demand it,” he told participants who listened attentively.
Leader of the opposition ACT-Wazalendo party Zitto Kabwe underlined the significance of the separation of power if there will be any culture of public accountability in the country.
Mr Kabwe, who once served as a chairperson of the influential parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC), explained that if officials in the government are to be accountable, the parliament should be strong enough to force them to do so.
“The question we need to answer is this: can the MPs we send to the parliament demand accountability from government officials implicated in inappropriate conduct?” Kabwe asked.
“There is a direct relationship between public accountability and good governance,” the former lawmaker added. “When the watchdog institutions – CAG, PCCB – are not independent, financially and administratively, their ability to do their jobs become compromised and thus fail to serve their intended goal.”
Ms Rosemary Mwakitwange, a veteran journalist and activist, rejected the narrative that Tanzanians do not know what they want, pointing out several initiatives ordinary citizens took to demand accountability from public officials.
“And some [public officials] get irritated by citizens’ efforts to demand accountability,” Ms Mwakitwange said. “They should know that people only demand accountability because they’re in the government. No one would have troubled them if they ran their private businesses.”
During a panel discussion, Mr Utouh stressed the importance of access to information, noting that there will be no accountability if the government conducts its affairs in the dark.
“Along with integrity and the rule of law, public accountability also calls for access to information, which will help taxpayers know how their taxes are being used,” he said. “Public leaders should feel compelled to report to their citizens how their taxes are being spent.”