FOCUS ON AFRICA

Raila Odinga: The Magufuli I knew

I first met Dr Magufuli at an international conference on infrastructure in Durban, South Africa some time in 2003. I had just assumed office as Minister for Roads, Public Works and Housing in the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government of President Mwai Kibaki.

When rumours started going around about the health and whereabouts of my friend President John Pombe Magufuli, I placed several calls to him.

 Later, I sent him a text message. Both went unanswered. I then resigned to expect the worst while hoping I was wrong. When his death was confirmed as I was self- isolating after testing positive for Covid-19, I felt the full weight of double tragedy and emotions dealt by the cruel hand of fate. It was the worst time to lose a friend and a comrade.

It was a bond forged over war on corruption and quality infrastructure.

I first met Dr Magufuli at an international conference on infrastructure in Durban, South Africa some time in 2003. I had just assumed office as Minister for Roads, Public Works and Housing in the National Rainbow Coalition (Narc) government of President Mwai Kibaki.

By that time, Dr Magufuli had held a similar portfolio for some time in Tanzania.

At the ministry, I discovered that I had inherited a bigger problem than I had imagined. The ministry was mired in massive corruption. 

Demanding pay — and getting paid — for works they had not done, or those done way below specifications. Nearly the entire ministry budget was being used to clear pending bills that kept rising. The ministry was neither constructing any new roads nor maintaining the existing ones.

It is in that context that I attended the Durban conference. I wanted to share my experiences, learn from fellow ministers and other experts and, hopefully, also attract some funding for the massive infrastructure Kenya needed when Narc took over. On corruption, Dr Magufuli took immense interest in my presentation.

He was particularly intrigued by my admission that corruption had found a home in the ministry and it was denying the country the good infrastructure needed for economic growth.

The two of us had lengthy discussions on the side-lines of the conference. During our discussions, he disclosed that the problems I had mentioned were the same ones he encountered when he took over at Roads and Public Works in Tanzania. He offered to share his experiences in dealing with the vices of corruption and cowboy contractors and driving them out of town.

For a start, he advised that I look into two areas: procurement and designing and tendering processes.

From his experiences in Dar es Salaam, he had ring-fenced these areas as the hideouts for corruption and conduits for loss of government funds.

Source: The Citizen

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