Top officials at Tanzania’s state-owned oil agency were arrested this week on charges of failing to release to parliament oil and gas contracts the government signed with foreign and local investors.
PAC Chairman Zitto Kabwe
The arrests on Monday bring to a head a simmering row over whether Tanzania is getting a fair deal for its newfound natural resources.
Huge offshore gas finds promise to lift the east African nation into the ranks of middle-income countries by 2030 and free it from dependency on foreign aid.
However, the government has insisted on keeping terms of production-sharing agreements secret, raising suspicion over whom they benefit.
The Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts (PAC) instructed police to arrest James Andelile, acting director general of Tanzania Petroleum Development Corp (TPDC), and its board chairman Michael Mwanda for refusing to comply with its Nov. 3 deadline for releasing 26 oil and gas contracts to the parliamentary oversight panel.
“It is confirmed. They were arrested today and they will be charged in the court according to the law,” Zitto Kabwe, the committee’s chairman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
TPDC has resisted requests to disclose the production-sharing agreements on the grounds that it was bound by confidentiality clauses.
TPDC’s information officer Sebastian Shana said it was impossible for the agency to release the contracts, given the short time frame, before consulting with investors.