By Alfred Zacharia
Dar es Salaam — The ministry of Livestock and Fisheries has embarked on reforms with a view to netting internal revenues amounting to Sh39.99 billion in order to fund various development projects in the 2018/19 financial year.
This comes after revelation that during the 2017/18 financial year, the ministry did not receive funds for its development projects from the government until April this year.
It was a repeat of what happened in the 2016/17 financial year.
In the 2017/18 financial year, the ministry had targeted to collect at least Sh36.1 billion from internal sources for same purpose. And until April, the ministry managed to collect at least 108.02 per cent of the target for fisheries and 83.4 per cent for livestock.
According to the 2017/18 financial year budget, Sh6 billion was allocated for the two sectors in order to implement various development projects, but until April 2018, the government had yet to disburse the funds.
This means the entire development projects implemented by the ministry were largely dependent on internal revenues.
Still, in the 2018/19 financial year, the minister for Livestock and Fisheries, Mr Luhaga Mpina tabled his new budget requesting Sh56.45 billion with Sh12.1 billion being for development.
It is an increase of 58.6 per cent compared to Sh35.6 billion allocated for the sector in the 2017/18 financial year with only Sh6 billion allocated for development.
The ministry exudes confidence that it will collect Sh5 billion internally to fund its development projects for the livestock sector during the 2018/19 financial year. It also plans to collect at least Sh7 billion for implementation of various projects in the fishery sector whereby Sh3 billion will be sourced from internal revenues and the remaining Sh4 billion will come from external sources.
Mr Mpina added that the ministry is keen on generating income to fund research with a view to increasing productivity.
Other priorities the ministry will undertake during this financial year include construction of dams for livestock, construction and rehabilitation of fishing facilities, cattle auction markets, developing livestock multiplication farms, allocating grazing areas, providing fishery subsidies and conducting feasibility studies for the construction of large fishing ports.
The ministry also plans to conduct a national wide census that aims at establishing exact number of livestock and fish.
However, the parliamentary standing committee for agriculture, livestock and water is worried that the ministry might not achieve its development goals if the government delays disbursing funds. The chairperson of the committee, Mr Mahmoud Mgimwa, a legislator of Mufindi North (CCM), shared his experience in the parliament showing that his team discovered poor implementation of the projects wherever they conducted inspection.
"The project was about to kick off, but we don't have funds," he said this was the main excuse the team used to hear when inspecting various development projects. Even so, the ministry is optimistic that it would implement its objectives if they manage to raise the aforementioned amount internally.
"I am optimistic that we will meet our internal revenue collection targets. We will focus on major reforms that will help us collect plenty of money from our sectoral operations," the minister said when tabling his budget.
Mr Mpina said the funds will be collected through export license fees for livestock, license fees on fish and fish-products, charges on domestic movement permits, market fees and tender documents. In addition, the minister said they money will be raised from provision of export and import loyalties, laboratory charges and penalties for those who contravene laws.
However, stakeholders in the livestock industry, including livestock transporters, abattoir operators and meat suppliers have expressed their dissatisfaction with how the ministry handles issues.
They told The Citizen that the ministry suddenly introduced multi-license and changed penalty charges without involving them. "I am not sure about the date, but I remember it was in April when four men entered the black gate of Vingunguti slaughterhouse. They introduced themselves as livestock officers from the ministry and everyone was surprised when they wanted us to show them our licences," said the chairperson of animal slaughters association (Wavimi), Mr Joel Meshaki.
Mr Meshaki said after they failed to present their licences, the officers slapped them with a Sh500,000 fine apiece.
"We have never heard of slaughtering licences because those with meat supplying licenses were entitled to slaughter," he explained.
"As a result some cattle and goat owners ran away at night, leaving their livestock behind because they had no money to pay the fines." Nonetheless, his concern was not the introduction of the new licence, but the officials approach of ambushing people in the abattoir at night and forcing them to pay fines on the spot.
"The ministry is too ambitious on collecting revenues, but it doesn't consider how much it costs us running our business," a livestock transporter, Mr Iddi Maziku said. He is among the victims who were forced to pay Sh500, 000.
"I had two licenses, one for transporting and the other for supplying meat, but now they are telling me I have to look for the third one," he said.
Iddi will have to spend another Sh210, 000 to get a new licence.
During the debate on budget estimates tabled in the parliament, various MPs questioned the government's seriousness in ensuring that the sector benefits farmers and the country's economy.
"It is strange that the sector that gives the government at least Sh56 billion in revenues is denied funds for development projects," Julius Karanga Laizer, MP of Monduli (Chadema) said.
He said, the government strives to collect revenues from the livestock keeper, but it has no intention of improving their productivity.
The legislator, however, commended the government for providing subsidies to pastoralists, allowing them to transport livestock to international markets and scrapping unnecessary levies. Mr Laizer was questioning why the country spends at least Sh56 billion yearly to import meat despite having the second highest number of livestock on the continent. Agnes Marwa (CCM-special seat) also faulted the ministry on the methods it uses to collect revenues from fishermen, claiming that they have been constantly harassed.
"We are all aware that, in collecting revenues government officers use force. This discourages the operators and stakeholders of the sector," she said.
She requested the parliament to form a committee that will investigate all forms of revenue collection methods the ministry uses. According to recent data, the livestock and fishery sectors grew by 2.8 and 2.7 per cents in 2017 compared to 2.6 and 4.2 per cent in 2016, respectively.
Their contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017 was 6.9 per cent compared to 7.7 per cent in 2016 for livestock and at least 2.2 per cent last year compared to two per cent two years ago for fishery.