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Tanzanian president sacks port chief in anti-graft campaign

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Newly-elected President John Magufuli has sacked the head of Tanzania’s ports authority and the top official in the transport ministry, part of a campaign to root out corruption and inefficiency in the East African nation.

Tanzania's President John Pombe Magufuli addresses members of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi Party (CCM) at the party's sub-head office on Lumumba road in Dar es Salaam, October 30, 2015. REUTERS/Sadi Said

Magufuli fired the director general of the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA), Awadhi Massawe, and the permanent secretary in the transport ministry, Shaaban Mwinjaka, following the disappearance of over 2,700 shipping containers at the port.

Massawe, who was acting director of the port since February before being formally confirmed to the position in October by Magufuli’s predecessor, President Jakaya Kikwete, becomes the third port chief to be sacked in as many years.

“President Magufuli has also disbanded the board of directors of the ports authority due to its failure to take action against the Dar es Salaam port’s long history of poor performance,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement.

Magufuli has introduced a series of austerity measures since his inauguration last month and dismissed several officials as a sign of his determination to fight corruption.

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s main port, has been dogged by allegations of inefficiency and corruption. Security experts say the seaport is one of the main entry points for Afghan heroin bound for Europe and poaching gangs also use it to export ivory for China and wider Asian markets.

The World Bank said last year inefficiencies cost Tanzania and neighbours served by the port up to $2.6 billion a year.

Last month, Tanzanian authorities suspended six tax officials including the head of the revenue authority, pending an investigation into claims of graft and tax evasion.

The suspension of Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) chief Rished Bade and the five others coincided with two surprise visits to the port by Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.

Majaliwa has also suspended 13 other senior officials at the port pending an investigation into allegations of corruption and tax evasion.

Police are investigating the disappearance of about 349 shipping containers worth more than 80 billion shillings ($37 million) from inland container depots that serve the port, Majaliwa said in a statement issued by his office.

A follow-up visit by the prime minister to the same port on Thursday uncovered that another 2,431 shipping containers were smuggled without paying government taxes.

Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala; Editing by Drazen Jorgic/Mark Heinrich