CAG vs Ndugay

#1
Mr Akbar Khan,
Secretary General,
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA),
Richmond House, Houses of Parliament, London SW1A 0AA, United Kingdom.
T: +44 (0)20 7799 1460.
F: +44 (0)20 7222 6073.
Email hq.sec@cpahq.org.

9th January, 2019

Re: Unwelcome, unprecedented and dangerous wrangle between the Speaker of the National Assembly of Tanzania and the Comptroller and Auditor General.

I am a Member of Parliament in Tanzania and active member of our CPA Branch having served in the Executive Committee for the Africa Region for more than 6 years (2009-2015). I have also served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee and of the Public Organisations Accounts Committee for a total of 8 years and as Secretary General of the African Public Accounts Committees Organisation (AFROPAC) and that for SADC region (SADCOPAC) as the Vice Chairman.

I kindly bring to your attention a worrying dispute involving our Speaker, Rt. Hon Job Ndugai, and the head of our Supreme Audit Institution (SAI), the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Prof. Mussa Assad. The current tensions surfaced when the Speaker summoned the CAG to appear before the Parliamentary Privileges, Ethics and Powers Committee.

This summons was a response to comments Prof. Assad made in an interview, in which he stated, “If we [The National Audit Office] are producing reports, yet no actions is being taken, to me, that’s the weakness of Parliament […]. I believe it is a challenge that will be worked on […]. The Parliament is failing to exercise its responsibilities effectively.” Hon. Ndugai claimed these comments were in contempt of Parliament, and summoned Prof. Assad on those grounds.

(See more here: Ndugai orders CAG to appear before ethics committee).

Hon. Ndugai’s actions have prompted a heated debate in Tanzania, the focus being the Speaker’s apparent violation of the constitutionally enshrined immunity of the CAG. Hon. Ndugai’s subsequent order that all oversight committees, including PAC, cease working with the National Audit Office has only added to the gravity of the situation. The Speaker’s intervention, moreover, comes just as a highly sensitive report from the National Audit Office is due to be discussed by PAC and tabled in Parliament. The report contains the results of a special investigation of roughly $650m of unaccounted for expenditure by the government in FY 2016/17.

(See here for a detailed analysis: Why grilling the CAG over remarks is unacceptable).

I am particularly concerned about this matter and seek intervention from the CPA not only because Hon. Ndugai’s order constitutes a serious constitutional breach in Tanzania but also because of the dangerous precedent it will set for the Commonwealth as a whole. If Tanzanian CAG is grilled by a parliamentary committee for exercising his freedom to air misgivings regarding the work of parliament on his reports, that is a clear violation of a Supreme Audit Institution’s (SAI) independence.

May I kindly refer you to the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting (CHOGM), held in Sri Lanka in November 2013, where the Heads of State reaffirmed their commitment to the independence of SAIs, stating in the final communique that:

“Heads recognised the contribution that strong, properly resourced and independent supreme audit institutions play in improving transparency, accountability and value for money to ensure that public funds are appropriately spent.”

For SAIs to exercise their independence, they must be free to publicise the results of their work and then undertake follow-up investigations as required. It is, therefore, worrying that the Speaker of a Commonwealth member country should hold the CAG in contempt for doing his job, namely for communicating to the public the results of his audits and for raising concerns about the failure of partner institutions to consider and address key recommendations from his reports.

At the Commonwealth Auditors General Conference held in Malta in March 2014, the participants took a collective decision to launch a campaign across the Commonwealth to realise the commitments articulated in the above-mentioned CHOGM communique. The recent comments by Tanzania’s CAG regarding our Parliament’s failure to hold the government to account is fully in keeping with the spirit of the Malta decision.

Since the Tanzanian Parliament is a CPA Member, I kindly urge that your office make a diplomatic intervention by communicating with the Speaker of the Tanzanian Parliament, alerting him to the dangers of his decision. I believe that the matter can be amicably resolved and improve the relationship between the two key institutions, Parliament and the National Audit Office, which depend on each other.

Yours

( Signed )
Zitto Kabwe, MP
Kigoma Urban Constituency
United Republic of Tanzania

Cc
- All CPA Speakers in Africa
- All AGs in CPA Africa
- General Public
 
Top