Dar es Salaam. Things have been moving at a terrific speed in key ministries, including at the Treasury, as President Samia Suluhu Hassan wants to reshape the government to align it with her aspirations.
It all started with her last week’s appointment of the immediate former Finance Minister, Dr Phillip Mpango, as Vice President.
That was followed by the appointment of Dr Mwigulu Nchemba as the new Finance Minister to replace Dr Mpango.
Dr Nchemba, who holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Dar es Salaam, is an experienced economist, who formerly worked at the Bank of Tanzania before joining active politics.
While in politics, he held the position of deputy minister in the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning during former President Jakaya Kikwete’s administration.
And when she reshuffled permanent secretaries on Sunday, President Hassan moved Mr Doto James from the Ministry of Finance and Planning and put him in charge of the Industry and Trade docket in the same capacity.
The President then appointed Mr Emmanuel Tutuba as new Treasury Permanent Secretary.
Though little may have been known about Mr Tutuba until the time that former President, the late John Magufuli, appointed him the Regional Administrative Secretary for Mwanza in January last year, the fact is that he (Mr Tutuba) had been one of the brains behind budget preparations at the Ministry for a long time.
Having spent a good part of his time in the Budget Department in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, Mr Tutuba – who, along with those that were named into their various new potions, will be sworn-in today (Tuesday) – has what it takes to steer the ministry to vibrancy in his new role as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry.
One of Mr Tutuba’s close assistants was also appointed on Sunday. He is Dr Khatibu Malimi Kazungu who is returning to the Ministry in the capacity Deputy Permanent Secretary after a stint of working as Regional Administrative Secretary for Kilimanjaro.
Dr Kazungu is not new at the Finance Ministry. He worked in the same capacity during the time that the late Dr Servacius Likwelile was Treasury Permanent Secretary.
“In my view therefore, the President seems to be picking people who are professionals in their respective areas in an effort to create a team that performs up to her expectations and indeed, expectations of Tanzanians,” said Mr Straton Makundi who is managing partner of Auditax International, a firm that specializes in the provision of tax, audit, advisory and accounting services.
President Hassan has a delicate balancing act. She has to collect enough revenues that will see her delivering on the ruling party’s campaign promises but that should not be done at the expense of the health of the private sector.
This is exactly what she said during an event to swear-in the new Chief Secretary and some Cabinet ministers in Dodoma last week.
She told Dr Nchemba that it was about time the Finance Ministry thought of raising revenue collections without strangling businesses.
“Mr Finance Minister, you have been issued with a target of raising tax revenue to Sh2 trillion but that should be done through expanding the tax base,” she said.
Collecting Sh2 trillion per month could be a toll order for Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) which collected an average of Sh1.43 trillion per month during the financial year 2019/20.
That was an increase of about 12 percent from an average monthly collection of Sh1.28 trillion that was registered during the financial year 2018/19.
The only time that tax collection had gone close to the Sh2 trillion-mark was in December 2019 when a total of Sh1.92 trillion was garnered and in December last year (2020) when the taxman garnered Sh1.983 trillion.
President Hassan said she was unhappy with the current trend by tax collectors which was strangling businesses.
“You are killing businesses. You use more force than knowledge in your tax collection endeavors,” she said.
She said she was unhappy with a tendency of milking some taxpayers dry and that of going to the extent of seizing their working tools and confiscating their bank accounts.
“Though the law allows you to do that, once it happens, someone decides to close the business and move to the neighbouring country. By so doing, you are reducing the number of taxpayers,” she said, insisting on the need to expand the tax base.
“Anything that reduces taxpayers’ morale to pay tax must be worked on accordingly,” she said.
Presenting the 2017/18 budget in Parliament in June 2017, former Finance and Planning Minister, Dr Phillip Mpango, said the government recognizes the role of the private sector in Tanzania’s economic growth endeavours, noting that it would conduct several measures to ensure that Tanzania becomes an investment destination of choice.
He said the government was discontented with the closure of 7,277 businesses at Kariakoo in Dar es Salaam and across the country, saying the trend was discouraging, noting however that it was by no means an indication that the phenomenon was only common to Tanzania.
It may not be surprising therefore that on Sunday, President Hassan made yet another new appointment that is directly linked to the Finance Ministry.
She picked Mr Alphayo Kidata as new TRA Commissioner General to replace Dr Edwin Mhede, who was appointed to head the tax body in June 2019.
Mr Kidata had previously worked as Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Land, Housing and Human Settlements Development.
A native of Bunda in Mara, Mr Kidata studied Economics during his first Degree at the University of Dar es Salaam.
After completing his BA Degree in Economics, he was employed by the government under the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, working in the Ministry’s Economics and Planning Department.
He later enrolled for a Master’s Degree course at in Japan where upon his successful completion, he returned home and worked in a number of positions and rising to become the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry and before being appointed as TRA Commissioner General towards the end of 2015.
It was during his first few weeks as TRA Commissioner General that revenue collections rose from Sh1 trillion in December 2014 to Sh1.3 trillion in December 2015.
Since then, monthly collections have never again gone below the Sh1 trillion-mark but whether that record will be maintained and further improved to meet the Sh2 trillion goal while simultaneously working hard to prevent strangling businesses remains anybody’s guesswork.