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JPM cracks whip on data spin doctors

PRESIDENT John Magufuli yesterday instructed the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to take serious legal action against individuals, institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) accused of airing or publishing false statistics.

Publishing unofficial state data other than that produced by NBS is liable to jail terms of up three years or fines of up to 10m/- or both, according to the 2015 law on statistics. “Statistics are key to the country’s economic development … especially so when they’re correct,” president Magufuli said.

“This should be a warning to media houses and online platforms.” The Head of State explained that some institutions and individuals had been giving misleading statistics over the government’s performance contrary to the ones published by the state-run Bureau.

President Magufuli said the government proposed its enactment, and was duly passed by Parliament and subsequently sealed by the presidential signature. “Authorities should not hesitate to take action against those giving out false reports.”

The President said the least (minimum) penalty in keeping with current legal provisions was six months imprisonment or a million shillings in fines, but added, “… if I were the judge I would apply the last option,” which is three years imprisonment and 10m/- fines.

Speaking shortly before laying a foundation stone for the office of the chief statistician and the Bureau’s Head offices here, the president said this warning also applies to NGOs. He however called public and private institutions to help the Bureau with all the necessary information required in the preparation of state data – and at once seized the opportunity to describe the figures released by the state agency as a ‘positive’ reflection of the country’s economic growth.

State figures show that the country’s economy grew at an average of 6.8 per cent during the first half of the year, and that such growth ‘beat’ those of other East African countries. Citing a simple analysis, he said this country hadn’t built a railway of its own since the German did it ‘for us’ in 1905; after 112 years, “… we’re releasing 7.6trn/- to finance construction of a 729km standard gauge rail-line … we’re also planning to spend 920bn/- to construct the Farkwa dam that will improve water supply in the designated capital, Dodoma.”

The project engineer, Yasin Mlingo said construction of the five storey building is scheduled for completion next month. He told the president the 12.7bn/- structure has been completed by 85 per cent and helped employ over 120 local residents of Dodoma.

Dr Albina Chuwa, Director General of the National Bureau of Statistics told the president that all construction work alongside another structure for the Chief Statistician in the Isles was also progressing well. She said the Bureau’s performance was already a global showcase and, according to the 2016 World Bank report, Tanzania’s sterling record came second behind South Africa among 54 African countries.

“Let me assure you that we have a comprehensive plan to improve collection of statistics,” she said. World Bank Country Director for Tanzania, Malawi, Somalia and Burundi, Ms Bella Bird, acknowledged that Tanzania had since gone digital in its data collection.

She added that, as the country moves to an industrial economy, both the government and larger public would also have to develop statistics for a middle-income society. She affirmed that the WB and development partners are committed to continue working with the government of Tanzania in improving its statistics.

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