Tanzanian lawmakers to debate on energy graft despite objections

Mizengo Pinda, Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaks during the Millennium Development Goals Summit at United Nations headquarters in New York September 20, 2010. REUTERS/Chip East (Reuters)

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania's parliament will hold a debate this week on allegations of corruption in the energy sector, the speaker said on Monday, despite efforts by the prime minister to block the session. Tanzania is estimated to have 53.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves off its southern coast, however, the sector has long been dogged by allegations of graft -- an issue that has led to donors delaying aid and weakened the currency. Earlier this month, parliament received a report on an investigation into allegations of corruption made by opposition MPs, who said senior government officials had fraudulently authorized payment of at least $122 million of public funds. The government has denied any wrongdoing by its officials and Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda called on parliament not to debate the findings of the report, arguing that this would interfere with 10 pending court cases. However, parliamentary Speaker Anne Makinda said the watchdog Public Accounts Committee (PAC) would make a presentation to parliament this week regardless. "The parliamentary debate will take place," said Makinda, adding that the session would start on Wednesday and be extended from one to three days "due to the seriousness of the matter". The opposition says the $122 million came from an escrow account held jointly by state power company TANESCO and independent power producer IPTL and went to IPTL's owner, Pan Africa Power (PAP) in 2013. PAP said the transfer was legal. A group of 12 international donors have said they will only pay out outstanding pledges of budget support worth nearly $500 million if the findings of an investigation into the graft claims are published and appropriate action is taken. Adding to the sense of intrigue, Tanzanian police said a copy of the report into the corruption allegations had been stolen from parliament. A suspect was arrested at the weekend and is being held in custody for breaking into parliament. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by Edith Honan and Crispian Balmer)