Four legislators who are members of the parliamentary Local Authorities Accounts Committee (LAAC) will be arraigned for soliciting bribes anytime from now, bringing the number of lawmakers accused of corruption to five, The Guardian on Sunday has learnt.
Impeccable sources within the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) confirmed to The Guardian on Sunday yesterday that preliminary investigation into the four legislators has already been concluded.
“All the files are currently in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions,” a senior PCCB officer, who declined to be named because he is not the authorized spokesperson, told this paper.
When contacted on the matter on Friday, PCCB Director General Dr. Edward Hosea declined to discuss the matter, saying it was unprocedural to disclose information about those being investigated by his agency.
“My task is to investigate, and that’s what we are doing…I am not willing to discuss anything regarding the matter because it is both unwise and unlawful,” said Hosea, adding that the public would hear soon once all loose ends had been tied up.
Three years ago the PCCB chief caused panic and divisions among the legislators after the anti-graft czar launched investigation into double payments to the MPs by various government institutions.
However, the investigation was shelved after consultative meetings between the PCCB director general, former Speaker of the National Assembly Samwel Sitta and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda.
The latest crackdown comes at a time when the National Assembly has been in the frontline in attacking and criticizing the government for corrupt deals, a move that triggered the recent cabinet reshuffle.
This development comes barely a week since the legislator for Bahi constituency, Omary Badwel (CCM), who is a member of the LAAC, appeared in the Kisutu Resident Magistrates’ Court in Dar es Salaam charged with soliciting and receiving a bribe from Mkuranga district director Sipora Liana.
The Guardian on Sunday cannot at this juncture disclose the names of the four MPs because of legal barriers contained in the PCCB Act of 2007.
The sources said that PCCB had reliably established that the charged MP wasn’t acting alone in the bribery scandal, but was a front for the four other MPs who are yet to be arraigned.
“We strongly believe that we have a case against the four more MPs, but the decision to prosecute them will depend on the consent of the DPP,” the PCCB officer told this paper.
The bribery case against the Bahi lawmaker is scheduled to come up for a second mention and subsequent preliminary hearing on June 18.
It was alleged in court that, being a member of the parliamentary oversight committee on local government accounts, Badwel solicited a bribe with a view to lobbying his fellow LAAC members to give a clean bill of health to the council’s accounts report. He is further alleged to have received Sh1 million from Liana at Peacock Hotel in the city on June 2, 2012.
According to the charge sheet read out by PCCB prosecutor Janeth Machullya, the Sh1million allegedly received by the MP was advance payment for a deal package totalling Sh8 million.
The Guardian on Sunday has learnt that investigators got another lead linking the other four MPs with the bribery scandal and had since then gathered enough evidence to prosecute them.
According to our sources, unlike Badwel who faces two charges soliciting and receiving a bribe, the four MPs would only be charged with soliciting a bribe.
When contacted yesterday, Director of Public Prosecutions Eliezer Feleshi was non-committal on the matter.
“Equality before the law does not segregate according to the status of a person, according to Article 13 of the Constitution. This is what my office stands for and, as a professional prosecutor, I will only make a disclosure about a case that is mature,” noted Feleshi.
He added: “For cases related to corruption which originate from PCCB there is what we term as simple solicitation and receiving of a bribe. Cases of this nature are straight-forward and the accused are always taken to court without due delay, but in other cases there is a need for assessing the quality of evidence for the prosecution, thus requiring time for a case to reach maturity.”
He urged the general public to be patient and wait for the outcome of the work being performed by his office instead of being emotional and sometimes perceiving his office as delaying the prosecution unnecessarily.
“We should not be emotional. My office has to scrutinise every detail since it makes no sense to charge a person in court and then it takes several years to complete the prosecution,” the DPP said.
This paper has reliably learnt PCCB has been interrogating a number of LAAC members for the entire duration of this week, though no names were made public. The Guardian on Sunday understands however that Kigoma-South MP David Kafulila is one of those who were quizzed on Thursday. It remained unclear however whether the interrogation was concluded or he would be recalled at a later stage.
In the wake of Badwels’ arrest last weekend, Kafulila had called for dissolution of the entire LAAC, charging that it had lost credibility, a key quality to performing the oversight function.
The legislator also demanded the National Assembly to suspend Badwel owing to the charges he was facing in court irrespective of the case outcome.
Kafulila, who confirmed to this paper that he had been interrogated by PCCB, said he had not attended the committee’s meetings since the MP’s arrest because he wanted to live true to his word. He said he had submitted a letter to the Speaker of the National Assembly to that effect.
The outspoken MP, during a parliamentary debate in June 2011, accused his colleagues on the committee of asking for bribes, and mentioned Badwel and Mbozi lawmaker Godfrey Zambi as the culprits.
LAAC, led by chairman Vunjo MP Augustine Mrema (TLP), his deputy, Iddi Azzan (CCM), is made up of 13 other members.
They are Riziki Said Lulida (Special Seats- CCM), Zabein Mhita (Kondoa North, CCM), Godfrey Zambi, Sibira Mgalu (Special Seats, CCM), Hasnain Murji (Mtwara Urban, CCM) and Susan Kiwanga (Special Seats, Chadema).
Others are David Kafulila, Omary Badwel, Abdul Mteketa (Kilombero, CCM), Tauhida Nyimbo (Special Seats, CCM), Joseph Selasini (Rombo, Chadema), Kuruthum Mchuchuli (Special Seats, CUF) and Mahida Abdallah (Special Seats, CCM).