Wildlife Conservation Society of Tanzania under the spotlight

NORWEGIAN MEDIA EXPOSE ROT IN WILDLIFE CONSERVATION SOCIETY OF TANZANIA

(Posted 19th July 2013)

 

Norway’s Aftenposten on the 06th of July filed a damning article, exposing the rot and corruption which contributed to the disappearance of 6.8 NOK, leaving the society, according to the article, technically bankrupt. With the Tanzanian government at the ropes over growing allegation that the country is not doing nearly enough to stem poaching – earlier in the week government officials told local media in Dar es Salaam that over 1.000 poaching suspects had been arrested, though not saying over which period of time – the Aftenposten article could not come at a worse time. Battling negative publicity over a range of environmentally disastrous decisions taken by the government, such as plans to build a highway across the Serengeti migration routes, to build a soda ash extraction plant at Lake Natron, the ONLY place in East Africa where the flamingos can breed, to permit Uranium mining in an area of the Selous Game Reserve now being excised from the park but still thought to cause serious environmental degradation reaching deep into the Selous, the plans to build a new harbour in the centre of the Coelacanth marine national park near Tanga or plans to build a hydropower plant and am at Stiegler’s Gorge, have led to growing opposition abroad against such lunacies.

Poaching of elephant is all but out of control with a parliamentary report tabled and accepted speaking of up to 30 elephant a day being killed for their ivory, while opposition figures in Tanzania have alleged in parliament that the true figures could be twice as high.

NGO’s like the WCST were subsequently funded to assist in crucial areas of high biodiversity value but the article in the Norwegian newspaper now casts doubts that such expectations can be met and if not political cronyism and patronage has found its way from government into the NGO and private sector too.

The link to the article, in Norwegian is http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/-Presidentens-menn-overtok_-norske-bistandspenger-forsvant-7249364.html and the following Google Translation has been availed by Tanzanian sources as follows for readers to get acquainted with the various allegations made:

AFTENPOSTEN, Published: 06.jul. 2013 11:26 p.m. Updated: 06.jul. 2013 11:26 p.m.

Environmental projects to the Wildlife Conservation Society of
Tanzania (WCST) has collapsed. The money is gone, the employees have
resigned or been dismissed, and WCST is technically bankrupt. The
money for the business came from the Norwegian, Finnish, Danish,
British and American aid budgets.

In September 2012 took Philemon L. Luhanjo over as chairman and chief
executive officer of WCST. He is one of President Jakaya Kikwete
closest associates over many years.
Stopped flow of money

Norway was NOK 25 million for a project to protect forest area
Pugu-Kazimzumbwi outside Dar es Salaam. Cash flow was halted in 2012,
after 6.8 million was paid, because accounting and audit reports were
not delivered as agreed. In February 2013 Norway halted all further
cooperation with the WCST.

The embassy ordered an investigation by the audit firm Baker Tilly &
Co DPG. The existence of 24 May and gave clear indications of misuse
of money. WCST were given until 13 June to comment on the audit, but
has not responded.

UD will not disclose the audit report. However, both the Finnish
Counsellor Merja Mäkelä and Torbjørn Eriksen in Danish Outdoor
Council, both of which recognize the Norwegian report confirms that
there are clear indications of financial irregularities in the WCST.
The two are involved in other projects WCST, and await their own
investigations.

Presidential spokesman
Before Philemon Luhanjo was WCST-chairman, he was secretary general of
the Presidential Office and the President’s spokesman. Luhanjo walked
out of the government apparatus after a corruption scandal, with
strong accusations against him. Officially, he did not go off because
of the scandal.

Before this was again Luhanjo Secretary of the Tanzanian Ministry of
Environment, which was involved in a corruption case with Norwegian
aid money for years.
But Luhanjo is not the only one in the WCST coming from high up in the
state apparatus. Deo-Gratia Gamassa, who was general manager of the
WCST until he resigned quite recently, were mown retired from a
department head position in the Ministry Luhanjo led.

Also Gamassa successor, Yonazi Rawson, a former employee of the
Ministry of Environment under Luhanjo. The majority of the employees
in the WCST actually came from medium to higher positions in the
central administration. Now, most quit or been deposited due.
difficulties.

Artificial civil society
NGOs, in English called non-governmental organizations, used as an
alternative channel for aid money. Because NGOs representing civil
society, several donors responded that it is “the presidents ‘men’ who
governs.

Merja Mäkelä Counsellor at the Finnish Embassy in Tanzania said that
the WCST was not dominated by so many former government officials at
the time the Finns took the decision to support WCSTs projects in
2010-2011.She is critical of the WCST is ‘taken over’ by new entrants.

– Civil society should represent real meaning blocks in a population.
When civil society is reduced to be a privilege, as rulers hand out to
loyal supporters, it undermines the very idea of why a civil society
is important, says researcher Asle Toje in the Department of Political
Science at the University of Oslo.

He notes that a number of researchers have described how
Western-funded organizations in developing countries creates a false
civil society.
– It serves no purpose: To be a corrective to the authorities.

Toje believes it is difficult for Norway to criticize others because
Norway as much finance their own national NGOs.

“Not the way it works»
Chairman Philemon Luhanjo responds first either by phone, sms or
email. CEO Rawson Yonazi agree to receive questions by email, but when
he read them, he has “no authority”. He points Luhanjo. After a few
days responding Luhanjo at Aftenposten phones.
– I can not comment. I have not seen the email. I’m traveling. I can
not say anything because I still talk to the embassy.
– But the embassy says you have not answered those questions about the
audit report?
– No, no. I can not comment. It’s not the way it works, madam! says
Luhanjo before he breaks the conversation.

UD: Will demand money back
Hans-Jakob Arnestad Foreign Ministry says Norway will demand money
back for “insufficient documented expenses.”

Norway has allocated NOK 25 million to conservation measures in the
woods near Dar-es-Salaam, and paid 6.8 million. Measures for
sustainable use of forest and alternative livelihoods for local people
had run out of vandalism and nothing. Security forest had unraveled
and the forest was partially burnt down.

Project office, built with Norwegian money is destroyed and is now abandoned.

According Arnestad the door is not closed for a police matter, but
Norway will first consult with the Tanzanian authorities to see how
the matter can be resolved.

Doubtful crow project
Several of these projects to the WCST collapsed even before the donor
countries turned the money tap again. Also a project to reduce the
crow population, supported by the United States, Denmark and Finland
are in default. Indian House Crow is alien, unwanted species in
Tanzania, accounting – with its huge population – a major
environmental problem.
Field visits by crow traps in May showed according to a report that
“management had reduced the operation to be only a way to spend money
on, and not really try to solve crow problem.”  Finland stopped the
flow of money for 800,000 dollars, and the message is clear from the
Finnish Counsellor Merja Mäkelä:
– WCST is entirely without means, and owes us money. We’re not going
to fund them more.

Powerful people
Danish Outdoor Council has transferred 1.2 million Danish kroner to
the WCST project on environmental education in schools, which are
mainly implemented. But Friluftsrådet opt-out further cooperation.
Also British Bird Life International, which had several large joint
projects with WCST, has opted out all further cooperation and asks
WCST account for their spending.
Merja Mäkelä says it is rare Tanzanian authorities prosecute such
cases. And it does matter very long time.
– And in the WCST sits very powerful people, she reminds us.
Norwegian rainforest money would protect the city forest near
Dar-es-Salaam, Pugu-Kazimzumbwi and give locals alternative sources of
income. It did not go well.

The link to the president quite ok for embassy
– There is nothing negative in that it is the former top people from
environmental authorities that manage organizations or go to the
boards and volunteer work, said Inger Naess Counsellor at the
Norwegian Embassy in Tanzania Aftenposten in January.

She thought it was quite unproblematic that former senior officials
from the government, Tanzanian environmental management controls WCST,
and confirmed that this is the Norwegian embassy known right from the
start. Naess said Gamassa has been one of several main contacts for
embassy.
– Here’s pension ages 60 years and it is good and naturally gifted
people contributing. That you have worked in the ministry earlier,
disqualifies you from managing a voluntary organization receiving
Norwegian aid money, said Naess.

As suspected fraud have been strengthened in recent months,
Aftenposten again raised questions about the embassy believes the link
to the government apparatus is problematic. The embassy has nothing to
add.

 

Said the source, understandably on condition of strictest anonymity: ‘They shamelessly loot organizations which are meant to help the environment. Politicians should stay out of the NGO movement. The track record of our government is going from bad to worse. The land grab at Mwambani is ongoing and people are intimidated. Thank God for the East African court where the Serengeti case is pending because our own local judiciary has fallen prey to those in power. It seems nothing is sacred any longer as long as those in power can make money but when the mines are empty, these companies will leave big holes in the ground and big contamination above. They no longer feel any shame and think Tanzania is a big duka [Kiswahili word for supermarket or shop] where they help themselves without paying.  With all the scandals we had about illegal exports of wildlife to Qatar and other related matters, to lose the NGO’ platform to unscrupulous characters makes it even worse to get funding against poaching, illegal logging and environmental destruction. God help us’.

Stark views and words for sure but as the saying goes, no smoke without fire and this fire seems to be one big fiery blaze. Watch this space.

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