Dar es Salaam. Tanzanian daily reports that the government has turned down a request by the United Nations in Tanzania to pay for a $10 million five-year rent for an office building for UN agencies, saying a poor country like Tanzania can’t afford the amount.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Finance, Mr Ramadhani Khijjah, said in Dar es Salaam over the weekend that the Sh16 billion was enough to build permanent offices for the UN agencies operating in Tanzania. It is the government that pays rent for UN offices.
The PS was reacting to queries on the outcome of weeklong investigations by The Citizen on reports from our sources indicating that the Finance ministry was in the process of paying Sh16 billion five-year rent for an office building for the UN agencies that does not meet the UN’s minimum operations security standards (MOSS).
“With Sh16billion you can put up a new building that meets UN standards. Besides, this amount is too huge compared to the market price of between $14 and $18 per square metre,” said a member of the Ministerial Tender Board of the ministry of Finance.
Industry sources said the rent of $10million works to $50 per square metres, which is $30 more than the market price at Masaki and Oysterbay, adding that the government was paying $19 per square metres at International House where some of the UN offices are currently accommodated.
In August 2012, the ministry of Finance through its Ministerial Tender Board floated a nationally restricted tender for lease of office space for the United Nations in Tanzania.
The member of the Ministerial Tender Board told The Citizen in an interview over the weekend that several companies submitted bids with their quotations but the UN in Tanzania opted for the Oysterbay building located along Laibon Street and owned by Laibon Investments Ltd.
He said since the Sh16billion rent was too high, the Ministerial Tender Board asked Laibon to lower it as well as lowering the rental duration of five years to two years but the firm declined.
“The Ministerial Tender Board held a meeting last Tuesday and decided to part with Laibon Investments Ltd and we are starting afresh the process of looking for premises for the UN offices,” he said.
He said the UN was currently based at the International House where the renting contract ends on November 30. “We are negotiating with owners of the International House for an extension of at least three more months.”
At the same time, he said, the government was looking for a plot to build permanent UN offices.
The government rented UN offices at the Msimbazi Creek in Dar es Salaam but the December 2011 floods led to an evacuation.
Efforts to contact the UN Resident Representative in Tanzania, Mr Alberic Kacou, for comment have not been successful the whole past week.
However, UN sources said over the weekend that officials with the global body didn’t want to comment on the issue because “it is in dire need of its own offices.”
The building in question is located about five metres from the main road while UN standard (MOSS) requirement is 30 metres.
Another MOSS shortcoming is that the new office building is surrounded by residential houses.
“In other words it (the building) is an apartment block and not an office block,” sources privy to the tendering process told The Citizen over the weekend.
The UN sources confided with this newspaper that the Oysterbay office building might not be a 100 per cent safety and security proof, but it could at least provide relief to the UN body.
The sources said even the International House was vulnerable to security lapses, adding that UN agencies operating in Dar es Salaam have been scattered all over the city for lack of offices.
The tender document by the Ministry of Finance seen by this newspaper has listed down 13 requirements for lease of office space for the UN in Tanzania.
They include MOSS compliance for the UN, available space to accommodate all 11 UN agencies, office space of 4,000 square metres, parking for 50 vehicles, a large storage facility, a clinic, seven executive offices and a large meeting room with a capacity of 50 persons.
“The government can’t afford rent for such expensive and luxurious apartment blocks,” said the sources.
They noted that Tanzania was among the poorest countries in the world, adding that the UNDP Development Report has indicated the country will struggle to meet all the UN Millennium Development Goals.