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What do you consider the basic roles of the national Audit Office in creating a more stable economic structure for Tanzania.
The basic roles and functions of the office are what you would find in any other institution in any country. We perform an oversight role of the government and public sector. When we speak of auditing, we know that in any democratic society, the government , or the executive of the three pillars, will normally raise revenues and these revenues are normally raised after they have been approved by the legislature in the form of taxes of whatever non-tax revenues. After these revenues have been raised, it's the executive's duty to come up with a proposed budget. This is discussed with the National Assembly and Parliament and they have the rights to use the resources through the approved budget.
The role of this office is that after the appropriation of these resources, the government will go and implement, and hopefully they will be implementing it on behalf of the people. The Tanzanians now, though, cannot have access to all the information, so Parliament is there on its behalf. They don't have the power to see that it's value for money. That's our role, where we come in. The government is accounting itself on the use of the resources it collects as approved by Parliament and used for the benefit for the company. You need a third party, though, that what the others are reporting is reflecting the realities. That is auditing.
How has Tanzania has fared in collecting as much revenue as the government needs to operate?
When it comes to tax revenue, through the Tanzania Revenue Authority, it has been hardly 10 years when the monthly collection was barely 25 or 30 billion Shillings. Last month, though, they were able to collect 630 billion. Even with that leap, I think we can still collect more. And this is what we're pushing the government to do. There are substantial areas which the Revenue Authority hasn't been able to infiltrate. Yes, we've done a fantastic job, but we should not be complacent in as far as revenue collection is concerned. We can still improve, reducing tax exemption, reducing a loss to the government. If we minimize that, we can collect more.
What are some of your other strategies for increasing the amount of revenue collected?
We have many strategies. We have our parastatal organizations, which were tax-exempt. We are happy now that the government has seen it. Previously they were not providing anything to the government, but now they are doing. We have to be more careful because Tanzania has been blessed with natural resources. Experience has shown that we havent been smart in negotiating with contracts with potential investors. There is a feeling that some of the agreed contracts were more in favor of investors than to the country. In the future, we need to be more careful when negotiating with such contracts, particularly when it involves heavy investments. When it comes to exemptions, if there is a necessity, the government shouldn't give an exemption that it cannot monitor. You must have a mechanism that the costs are actually going to the costs! The government must have the ability to monitor and see that the exemption isn't being abused.
Do you still believe that Tanzania is a land of opportunity?
100%. Tanzania is a country of lots of opportunities. You see, for any meaningful investment to take place anywhere, you need political stability. We just celebrated 50 years of independence. We moved from a socialist economy to an open-market economy. The transition went smoothly with time, and we did not fight with each other. We have seen changes in leadership and we hope in 2015 to have another peaceful election. We cherish and value this. In addition to that, there is an abundance of what God has given us! We have almost every mineral, and God-willing, shortly we will have precious liquid. We have wildlife and plenty of good, arable land. We have right now, I would say, the opportunities for industrialization. We, we have a problem with power we cannot deny, but the government is working really hard to find a solution. I do not see why Tanzania shouldn't get fully involved in industrialization. Whatever we produce, we shouldn't have to sell our goods in raw form, we should add value to assist the economy in demanding better prices. We should seriously think of mining and processing, or at least semi-process, to be able to add value to what we are selling abroad. But if you sell your products in completely raw form, those buying know that you have no choice of what to do with it.
Should the government be inviting in more investment to the country?
This is the spirit of the current government. It started with the previous government, though. We have a minister responsible for investment, we have the Tanzania Investment Centre, and other structures with the responsibility of attracting investors. What I would advice the government to do is to come up with a plan where you prioritize our immediate requirements and our long-term requirements. When you speak of industrialization, it's general. It needs capital and manpower. We need to be organized and plan well and put them in phases. Through that, we know that if our idea is to excel in tourism, the government should gear towards preparing the personnel to meet that demand and requirement for the tourist industry.
Do you believe it's important to cultivate an entrepreneurship mindset in the country?
That is absolutely necessary. Tanzania was socialist and under socialism, creativity and individual thinking is not encouraged. The state plans for you. A country such as ours, which was subjected to socialism for 27 years, needs an elaborate education program to convert, or move people from that ideology to this new one. You will find most of the senior civil servants groomed under socialism. It doesn't disappear, it's a process. But the government has done well in bringing about that transformation. People are changing, and there are those who change fast, some who change slower than others, and some who will not want to change.
What accomplishments do you think Tanzania should be proud of?
Many, but I will give you a few. We have a very stable democracy. We have a very free and liberal viewpoint. Hardly 15 years ago, we didn't have television. Today we have 7 or 8 local channels. We only had 2 newspapers. Today, I've lost count! Hardly 15 years ago, our education system was completely under the state's control, and at that time, there were no private schools. At that time, if you were travelling to Arusha, you would meet around 50 or so buses moving students from Tanzania going to study in Kenya. Today, we are no longer sending students to Kenya and Uganda! Now, teachers from those countries are coming to seek employment here! In a short span of time, we've constructed good private school, which has enhanced the standard and quality of education in this country. When we got independence, we had about 4 government schools. Now 5000! We didn't have a single university, and today we have over 26 in the country. Today you can travel across the country, moving from place to place so easily. All these are achievements, we could go until midnight naming them!
Do you think Tanzania needs to publicize itself more globally?
I have been to 17 different states in the USA. I worked in Nebraska and I talked with people there. In Nebraska, I met a number of families there who had never stepped foot in Washington, or New York. In such a situation, why would somebody bother to know about Tanzania. Yes, we need foreign investment and tourism, so we need to publicize ourselves. But no matter how much you advertise yourself, it will only get to the ears of those interested. Furthermore, some people are not interested in what's happening in Africa because, unfortunately, the western media only has stories on the bad things in Africa, not the good things. If you only portray the negativity, people lose interest.
If you had a message to give our readers who may have the wrong idea of Tanzania, what would it be?
It's very simple. With our political stability, with the democracy we have in place, with our culture, the friendliness of the people, with the potentials we have here, if they can, they should find out the truth of Tanzania. They should physically visit Tanzania. The more people that come here, the more good ambassadors we have who go to their countries and spread the good news.