By Edith Honan
DAR ES SALAAM, Feb 17 (Reuters) – The acting director of Tanzania’s port authority has been suspended pending an investigation into allegations he violated procurement procedures, officials said on Tuesday.
The suspension comes at a time when the Indian Ocean port of Dar es Salaam, a major gateway to east Africa long plagued by inefficiencies, is due to receive a major facelift as part of a push to become a regional trade hub.
Director Madeni Kipande, whose predecessor was removed in a graft scandal two years ago, could not be immediately reached for comment. Local media quoted him as saying he had done nothing wrong.
Tanzania signed a $565 million deal with the World Bank and other development partners last September to expand the Dar port. The bank had earlier in the year estimated that inefficiencies and other problems at the port cost Tanzania and its land-locked neighbors up to $2.6 billion a year.
Officials insisted the upgrades would go forward as planned.
“This is not going to delay anything,” said Shaaban Mwinjaka, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Transport. “We have our plans for the progress that we are doing.”
He said the allegations against Kipande would be thoroughly investigated.
Corruption scandals have been dogging senior officials in Tanzania for months now. One involving the energy sector has brought down three senior officials in recent months, including the attorney general and the energy minister, and led to a shake up in the president’s cabinet and delay of aid payments.
In 2012, a previous director general of the port authority, Ephraim Mgawe, was suspended along with five other senior port officials amid allegations of graft within the authority.
Tanzania, like its neighbor Kenya to the north, is making a push to better capitalize on its long coastline to serve the region’s fast-growing economies. It is due to begin construction later this year of another port, in Bagamoyo.
Dar is a major gateway for trade from Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as Zambia and Malawi. (Editing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Tom Heneghan)
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