DAR ES SALAAM, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Tanzania’s president picked a new cabinet on Thursday, including one former minister who resigned from the previous government over a graft scandal at the energy ministry.
The east African nation is hoping to start large-scale production of natural gas within a decade, but foreign investors have long complained of graft in its energy sector.
President John Magufuli deferred the appointment of four cabinet positions, including that of the finance minister, and did not say when he would fill them, insisting there was “no need to rush.”
His reappointment of Sospeter Muhongo as the country’s energy and minerals minister, less than a year after the respected geology professor resigned, may raise some eyebrows.
Although not directly implicated, Muhongo quit in January after a graft scandal that rocked the energy ministry of the gas-rich country and prompted Western donors to delay aid. Muhongo at the time called himself “incorruptible” and denied any wrongdoing.
Tanzania has discovered more than 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Along with neighbouring Mozambique, it is in a race with Russia, Australia, the United States and Canada to build liquefied natural gas export plants, aiming to exploit a gap in global supply that is expected to open up by 2020.
Magufuli’s new cabinet of 19 ministers and 16 deputies is half the size of the previous one, in line with the new president’s pledge to appoint a small government as part of austerity measures.
Among notable new faces was Augustine Mahiga, a former Tanzania ambassador to the United Nations, who was appointed as foreign affairs minister.
Magufuli appointed a new face, Ashatu Kijaji, as deputy minister for finance and planning. Kijaji, who has a PhD in Economics from Norway’s University of Agder, previously worked as a lecturer at Mzumbe University in Tanzania.
“I have decided to name a small cabinet to save costs and improve government effectiveness,” said Magufuli, who has been on an austerity and anti-corruption drive since he won the October vote.
He cancelled Independence Day celebrations this week, bypassing regular pomp and ceremony to save money for a cleanup of city streets. Hundreds of people in commercial capital Dar es Salaam gathered to watch him shovel leaves and plastic rubbish into bins. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Hugh Lawson)