Countering Corruption in the Energy Sector: After Initial Missteps, Tanzania Shows the Way

The effects of corruption can be felt long after the incidents take place. There’s no better illustration of this than the history of Tanzania’s energy sector. In 1992, the Government of Tanzania was facing an energy crisis, and was in discussions with a Canadian company to develop its natural gas fields with funding from the World Bank. But then, the Tanzanian government received an unsolicited proposal from a Malaysian company, which offered to partner with a local Tanzanian firm to build and operate an emergency diesel-fueled power plant. The government abandoned its discussions with the Canadian company and, in 1995, signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Independent Power Tanzania Limited (IPTL), a joint venture entity formed by these Malaysian and Tanzanian private interests. By 1995, however, the energy crisis had already passed, and it was not at all clear that this PPA was in the government’s interest. In fact, Tanzania’s principal energy regulation agency, the Ministry of Energy and Minerals (MEM), consistently opposed the deal. Yet parties with significant ownership interests in IPTL managed to get the PPA through, in part by bribing senior officials and politicians.

The deal was a disaster, one that had a substantial negative impact on Tanzania’s energy sector for close to two decades. (The initial corrupt deal, together with multiple other improprieties, significantly undermined the financial stability of Tanzania’s energy sector, resulting in lower investment, substantial delays in the construction of more efficient power plants, higher energy costs for consumers, and inadequate expansion of electrification into rural communities.) But, without minimizing the seriousness of the mistakes that were made or the costs that resulted from this corrupt deal, ultimately Tanzania’s efforts over the last decade to hold the corrupt actors accountable and to overhaul its regulatory system provide a roadmap for how countries that have suffered from this sort of corruption, in the energy sector and elsewhere, can respond. Continue reading