- THE owner of a local private company implicated in the controversial 37 billion/- fingerprint scanners supply contract with the Tanzania Police Force is free to travel anywhere in the world since he has not been charged in a court of law, a senior government official said yesterday.
Media reports have it that Said Lugumi, chief proprietor of the Dar es Salaam-based Lugumi Enterprises Limited, quietly flew out of the country earlier this week amid mounting legislative and media pressure for details of the questionable 2011 deal to be made public.
But according to the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Projest Rwegasira, law enforcement agencies have not been monitoring Lugumi’s movements and will not take steps to restrict his travels unless directed to do so by relevant authorities.
“There is no law permitting the government to limit the movements of anyone who has not been charged in a court of law,” Rwegasira told The Guardian in Dar es Salaam yesterday, adding that only the courts can issue a legal order for such restrictions to be imposed on individuals.
According to the PS, the government cannot and will not take action against Lugumi based on accusations leveled against him “in the court of public opinion, as is the case now.”
An official investigation into the Lugumi-police contract is now being handled by the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) after the police force moved to disqualify itself, citing conflict of interest.
“The investigation will be conducted by PCCB because we want members of the public to have confidence in the credibility of the final findings,” Director of Criminal Investigations (DCI) Diwani Athumani told The Guardian on Wednesday.
The contract was signed during the tenure of the then Inspector General of Police (IGP), Said Mwema, with the scanners reportedly supposed to be installed in over 100 district police stations across the country.
The modern fingerprint technology was touted as crucial in significantly improving police efficiency in carrying out criminal investigations and positively identifying suspects.
But the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has recently raised questions over a Controller and Auditor General (CAG) government audit report which noted that only about 10 per cent of the agreed number scanners had been installed so far, despite Lugumi Enterprises having already been paid about 99 per cent of the price tag.
The PAC this week issued a new three-day ultimatum to the police force to present the contract with Lugumi Enterprises for parliamentary scrutiny, only to be rebuffed by incumbent IGP Ernest Mangu who said the police force is not answerable to parliament and therefore not obliged to honour the deadline.
According to Mangu, the police can only submit the contract to the home affairs minister if he instructed it to do so. The PAC ultimatum expires today.
Ex-IGP Mwema has so far declined to comment on allegations of possible impropriety linked to the deal. Lugumi and other representatives of his company have also not been available for comment.
There are also conflicting reports on whether or not the contract will now be submitted for scrutiny by another parliamentary watchdog team, the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Committee, instead of the PAC.
PS Rwegasira has however denied this, saying he had “special directives” from the PAC regarding the matter.
The parliamentary Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security Committee is chaired by Adadi Rajabu, a former DCI who once worked with Mwema in the police force.
Both current IGP Mangu and PCCB director-general Valentino Mlowola also previously served under Mwema in various senior capacities in the same force.
According to parliamentary sources, other high-profile individuals may also become implicated if the ongoing investigation unravels "hidden" faces behind the contract.
Official records at the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) show that Lugumi Enterprises Ltd is registered as a provider of various procurement services to the government.
The company has over the years been awarded several other lucrative contracts by various government institutions, such as a 2010 contract worth 846.5 million/- with the Ministry of Home Affairs for the supply of "security goods."