Tanzanian minister quits over corruption scandal

DAR ES SALAAM : Tanzania’s energy minster quit Saturday becoming the third top government figure pushed out of office over a multi-million-dollar energy corruption scandal, although he insisted he was “not a thief.

Energy and Minerals Minister Sospeter Muhongo denied any wrongdoing but said he resigned to “bring to an end this debate on the scandal” and, with general elections due in October, to “let our nation focus on other important issues.”  Last month Lands Minister Anna Tibaijuka was fired by President Jakaya Kikwete, after allegedly receiving 16 billion shillings (about $1 million, 821,000 euros) from one of the owners of independent power producer IPTL, the company at the centre of the affair.

The scandal broke after an audit uncovered the fraudulent payment of around $120 million in state funds to a private company.

“I haven’t done anything wrong. I am not a thief. I have a good record and can’t start thieving at this age,” Muhongo added.

“I am incorruptible.”  Attorney General Frederick Werema also resigned, while the anti-corrution bureau this month filed charges against five senior government officials over allegations linked to the scam.

They have all pleaded not guilty. Several key donors to Tanzania, including Britain, Canada, the European Union and Japan, have said they will halt hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Tanzania unless they are satisfied with investigations. Kikwete is expected to make a cabinet reshuffle in coming days to fill the vacant posts.