EDITORIAL: Dar port must address President Kagame and other users' concerns
DAR ES SALAAM
RWANDAN President Paul Kagame repeated his criticism of bureaucratic red tape delaying transit cargo at Dar es Salaam port during an East African investment conference in Kigali last week.
Mr Kagame whose landlocked country depends on Dar es Salaam and Mombassa ports to ship and receive its goods from abroad blamed, among other things, poor infrastructure, bureaucracy and corruption for the delays.
This is the second time within a month that the Rwandan leader has "hurled stones" at the Dar es Salaam port. The first time he did so was during a presidential plenary of the 8th Leon H. Sullivan Summit held in Arusha between June 2-6 this year.
While we acknowledge that poor infrastructure, including good roads and railway network, is a major factor delaying clearing and forwarding of goods at the port of Dar es Salaam, there is enough evidence that bureaucratic red tape which aims at convincing port users bribe officials, is also a major hurdle.
Take a simple example of 40 cartons of HIV and AIDS campaign T-shirts donated by an Austrian based good Samaritan, Othman Ruf last January to a Makete based HIV/AIDS activist group, PIUMA (Pima Ukimwi Uishi kwa Matumaini), only got cleared from the port last week.
So while Kagame's coffee, tea and apparel en-route to Europe or the Americas takes 60 days to be cleared from the port's bureaucratic cartel, PIUMA's donated t-shirts took close to six months! January 20, 2008 to June 24, 2008.
It's absurd and sincerely it shows that main players at the country's prime port have lent a deaf ear to criticism against bureaucracy and corruption. The 40 cartons PIUMA t-shirts did need to be ferried from Dar port to Makete for clearance and even if the port operator, Tanzania International Container Terminal Services (TICTS) is said to have poorly invested in infrastructure at the port, certainly a consignment of t-shirts is no heavy load.
As Kagame pointed out during the 8th Leon H. Sullivan Summit, corruption is the biggest of our undoing. In a statement to express his frustration with the bureaucratic process of clearing the t-shirts consignment, PIUMA advisor Rayben Sanga said that the original documents were reportedly lost at Tanzania Revenue Authority's customs department forcing the group to submit a second set of documents.
But worse still, Sanga noted that even the second set of import and tax exemption request copies were misplaced again forcing PIUMA to produce yet another set of documents. This is lack of professionalism and it displays gross irresponsibility, corruption ploy and negligence by TRA officials who handled the shipment.
At the end of the day, PIUMA had to pay over 1.4m/- in handling costs for a consignment worth EUR 5,000 (approx 6.5m/-) but the activist group is still waiting for a bill on storage charges and clearing and forwarding charges. You can imagine what a group of few corrupt individuals sitting at TRA long-room can do to discredit the country's prime port.
We urgently need action by relevant government authorities to clear this mess and ensure that Rwanda's merchandise and other landlocked countries' cargo as well get handled in a professional manner that will improve trade, spur regional economic growth and cut cost of doing business.