(eTN) – The Tanzanian Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism, already in the bad book of donors and development partners over their vague stand about the hugely controversial Serengeti highway project, has come under added scrutiny last week, when news broke that Norway had demanded the equivalent of US$2 million in development aid back.
The timing could not have been worse for the new tourism minister, who in his capacity under the old government was the deputy minister of tourism and, therefore, politically also responsible for this mess. Global concerns and a wave of letters and emails about the highway project, and renewed controversy over Tanzania’s fresh application to CITES to sell ivory stocks, is keeping Tanzania in the spotlight of global conservation organizations and individuals.
Sources in Dar es Salaam have suggested that ministry officials were swift to downplay the impact of the refunds and claimed fresh negotiations are already underway for more funding – but NOT saying that development partners will apply substantially strengthened rules and regulations, audit demands and compliance, which the present situation in the wildlife sector is not making any easier.
It was also downplayed that about half of the funds received under the scheme appear to have been spent on workshops, allowances, and travel-related expenses, while in other cases materials and equipment ordered were paid for but never delivered. This was leading, in some cases, to outright anger among the donors and development partners and their reluctance to “throw more good money after them” as one source in Dar es Salaam put it, until substantially improved governance and transparency can be demonstrated by the Tanzanian counterparts.