According to the Citizen, the World Bank is holding up to $50 million set aside for Tanzania over the Statistics Act which restricts freedom of speech. However, Doto James, the Permanent Secretary for Finance and Planning has said he is unaware of the existence of these funds.
“The government has neither requested nor embarked on a process to ask for a $50 million loan from the World Bank for use by the National Bureau of Statistics. As permanent secretary, I can confirm that we have never written to the World Bank asking for the money,” he said.
The $50 million is a grant that is meant to finance the government’s statistical activities. The World Bank said it is in “discussions with the government of Tanzania on whether further support to building sustainable statistical systems is appropriate at this time.”
“We have shared our concerns with the Tanzanian authorities that the amendments, if implemented could have serious impacts on the generation and use of official and non-official statistics, which are a vital foundation for the country’s development,” World Bank said.
The Statistics Act 2015
Tanzania’s Parliament has recently approved changes to the Statistics Act 2015 that “will criminalise the dissemination or otherwise communication to the public any statistical information which is intended to invalidate, distort or discredit official statistics.”
The amended law further states: “Any statistical information, which is intended to invalidate, distort or discredit official statistics is an offence and receives a punishment of $6,000 fine or a three-year prison sentence.”
The amendments also prevent people and institutions from “seeking the approval of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) prior to communicating their research findings to the public.”
The changes to the Act have been criticised by some Members of Parliament with Ally Saleh Constitutional and Legal Affairs spokesperson saying that the amendments will “limit the freedom of institutions and individuals involved in collecting, analysing and disseminating statistical information for survey and non-survey activities.”
However, the chairman of Parliament’s Constitution and Legal Affairs Committee Mohamed Mchengerwa said the amendments were made with the aim of retaining the authenticity of all disseminated data.