The Parliamentary Parastatal Organisations Accounts Committee yesterday described excessive interference by ministers in the operations of parastatal organisations as counterproductive.
It said the trend has seen some parastatals works so long and seriously on instructions from ministers as to ignore the guidelines and procedures they are supposed to follow, ending in huge but mostly needless financial and other losses.
The committee made remarks to that effect in Dar es Salaam after learning that the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) suffered a loss to the tune of 20bn/- in 2008/2009 after implementing directives from then Tourism and Natural Resources minister Shamsa Mwangunga.
It subsequently ruled that one of the instructions, under which Tanapa was barred from collecting concession fees from hotels in national parks and game reserves, was null and void.
Prior to the issuance of the directive, Tanapa had planned to collect over 21bn/- in concession fees by having hotels pay between USD20 and USD50 per tourist on arrival, but the minister wanted the charge fixed at 10 per cent of hotels’ annual income.
“We had planned to collect 21bn/- from hotels in the parks, but we ended up getting a paltry 2bn/-,” said Tanapa Director General Edward Kishe, adding: “With the minister’s directive, we would have ended up with a meagre 1.5bn/- but we worked extra hard and managed to raise this to 2bn/-.”
He said the Tanapa Board of Directors had earlier recommended the implementation of a project that would have resulted in park hotels paying concession fees based on capacity “but the minister cut this, arguing that the respective hotels had not been involved in arranging the fees and it would be unfair to subject them to the revised rates”.
The committee’s chairman, Zitto Kabwe, said he was shocked by the explanation given by the Tanapa DG, immediately recommending that ministers desist from interfering with development plans and decisions made by parastatals.
Committee member Mohamed Amour Chombo meanwhile, charged that some hotels were neither sincere nor transparent when it came to giving the fees they charge tourists, “the obvious explanation relating to cheating on taxable income and thus, short-changing the government”.
“It is well known that investors are usually more interested in reaping a windfall profits than in anything else, so Tanapa must come up with better plans which will allow effective auditing of their financial reports online,” he said.
Another member of the committee, Alphaxard Lugora, called on Tanapa employees to steer clear of corruption when involved in procurement procedures.
He also advised the agency to engage a higher gear in “selling” to Tanzanians and the international community more of the wildlife sanctuaries and other tourist attractions lying in the southern and western parts of the country, among them Katavi and Mahale.
The legislator said Tanapa could perform a lot better and more profitably by diversifying its promotional drives in part by “resting” the likes of the world-acclaimed Ngorongoro, Serengeti, Mikumi and Manyara national Parks and turning more attention to little-known ones with great potential for attracting tourists.
By last year’s figures, tourism contributes between 10 and 14 per cent to Tanzania’s gross domestic product.