Smoking out a rat


I have decided to publish an email I wrote to one of MSABI's sponsors.  It gives you an idea of some of the crap we have to deal with.  One of the blights on working in Tanzania is an attitude of "give it to me for free" which is really a creation caused by western society who pump in free unaccounted for money.  This maybe under a seemingly respectable NGO or simply a money handout.  (Please believe me when I say much money is lost, stolen and corrupted by many NGO's in this country.  But this is my opinion and experience only - feel free to make your own judgements.)  Anyway it creates an attitude of laziness and expectation that the "wazungu" should pay for everything and is a free game for trying to steal/con/request money.  It certainly makes for fun challenges when running a program like MSABI where the community must contribute! 

This particular sponsor/donor visited Tanzania this year and requested that we help a community just outside Dar es Salaam.  The place is called Kibaha and has a very very serious problem for access to safe and clean water.  I was happy to help with this project as it gave us the opportunity to test our drill team out on their ability to be mobile and relocate to other regions.  We were put in contact with a local community/social worker representative named Simon.  Simon has set-up a local prep-school and runs a free house for backpackers to come and visit - under the couchsurfing internet program.

Here is the email.

As you know we did a site inspection about 2 weeks ago.  Everything seemed fine and legit and even a council rep was with simon.

I turned up yesterday,  one day after our drill team had started work.  I smelt a rat immediately.  The agreed drill location had been changed to outside somebodies house.  Simon says the community is not ready to contribute because they dont believe there is water and they have been ripped off by the council on two previous occasions  for contributing money for some water scheme.   Anyway, so we are drilling at a private dwelling where the water will be sold to the community.  Simon hit me up for money straight away to pay for extra labour - which was not present - and my drill  team was labouring away themselves.  I said the owner should contribute some money to assist as this is now a private job.  He then tells me the owner gave him TSH200,000 for materials and water.  But all the materials are already existing from a previous house build job - so no need to buy them (IMO).  The day before (on the phone to my MSABI team leader Mr Hashim) I was told they have 4 people ready for work - but when I turn up Simon wants money to pay for them.    I ask some questions on prices and they are super inflated and then i ask for the remaining money to manage the job myself.  He then had to go away to calculate how much he spent.  I also asked for the owners phone  number which he wasn't able to provide.  Now I really smell a rat.  So we ask some questions of some of the locals to confirm that he is price gouging us.  Ok now I am on his tail.  He returns late in the afternoon and gives me TSH90,000 saying he has spent TSH110,000 in one day on water and cow manure. mmmm.  I tell him it is impossible to spend that much money.  Further, why didnt he hire the 4 labourers as he was supposed to.  Still he keeps his front and continues to lie.  I request the owners number again and he says he has to go to his house and find it.  He then disappears.  Now it is dark and we are stuck at the job site and I am starting to get pissed off.  My team leader Hashim finds him near his house and he tries to give Hashim a fake number for his friend who will pretend to be the owner.  Hashim is smart and sees through the trick.  Simon then tries to bribe Hashim.  Hashim returns to me and informs me that Simon admitted that he was trying to make a business from the drilling and he is scared of me.  We go and find him and I ask him straight what is going on.  Now the truth starts to flow.  He collected TSH400,000 from the client/owner of which he spent TSH200,000 immediately on a personal matter.  So I hammer him for being a liar and thief.  He starts crying a bit.  I don't yell, I am calm, more disappointed than anything - is all Africa like this???  And he is unable to account for the TSH110,000 that he is supposed to have spent.  So technically he has stolen TSH310,000 - from the owner/client not you (donar).  I give him an option.  Return the money to Hashim by tomorrow afternoon or we will shame him to the community and owner and take him to the police.  It is now well past dark and we have not had dinner and we are far from accommodation.  He says he is sorry and apologetic.  He wants to ask the owner for more money because they can  afford it.  I tell him no, stop being a thief.  We go to the house and sleep.  He phones at 10pm asking again to ask for more money from the owner, I tell him agian no.  He phones Hashim and tries for a deal - Hashim phones me.  I am woken at 3:30am by Simon coming into the house and knocking on my door.  He wants to talk.   Now I'm getting pissed off.  He can't get the money- he has tried to phone his friends and it will be impossible.  He apologises and is very sorry and says he has not slept (neither have I thanks) and this is the first time he has ever tried something like this (very doubtful). He begs not to be publicly shamed.  I tell him he must go to Dar today and see the owner and admit he has taken TSH200,000.  I now have the owners number and I will phone them now shortly to see if he has done what he said he would - assuming it is the real owners number.  Regarding the TSH110,000 he has to sit with Hashim today and the missing amount he has to repay to MSABI within one week.  I make it known this is his first and only chance with me and if I detect anymore lies or tricks our team will leave immediately and we will inform the police.  Also, the new site they chose is higher on the hill, hence more work for us and less  probability for good water.  

It seems there is no community support for what we are doing - but I wouldnt know for sure because who knows what Simon has done.  My guess he has not done much community consultation, instead trying to keep it quiet and sell the private borehole jobs for his shonky middle man business.  He tells me there are another 7 clients who need this project and can pay.  

My plan is see how today goes.  if the owner agrees to supplement the money to assist with the additional labour (note I am supplying 6 team members already - normally we work with 3), then we will finish the job.  Then we will hold a community meeting and explain our program - MSABI-public direct contract agreements.  

Im getting a bit angry now, especially how he treated my drill team - and his own community.  He is a theif of thw worst kind - masquerading as a social saint yet stealing from his own poor and disadvanted community who really need help with access to safe water.  He even made my drill team buy their own food, when he had stashed away nearly TSH400k.  Prick.  Wouldn't pay for the labour when the owner trusted him to use that money for that purpose. so on and so on.  Fun and games.

POST SCRIPT -  I phoned the owner last night and Simon was yet to talk to them.  So the gloves are off and he will be punished.  Regarding the stolen money - it is an issue between Simon and the owner.  MSABI is an innocent third party - I hope our name is not muddied from this.  MSABI will now deal directly with the owner.

So, I hope you can see it can be a tricky business operating a community program.  It is a roller coaster ride, but we are doing our best to improve not only infrastructure here, but societies attitudes as well.


Kibaha has a serious problem for water!


Would you drink this?  Who would cheat their community of clean water just to make a few hundred dollars?



Myself and friend Toby, who is here visiting from GHD Australia, lend a hand to our exhausted MSABI drill team.  Promised labour was not provided because one person decided to steal the money instead.