The government of Tanzania says it has begun legal action to recover millions of dollars it says a British contractor received for building a road in a remote area, but who then disappeared having done no work.
Chief executive of the Tanzania Roads Agency Patrick Mfugale told reporters that the UK company STRADA International was hired in 2013 to build the 26km road from Kilimanjaro International Airport (KIA) to the gem mines of Mirerani, but that the company just disappeared with more than 22 billion Tanzania shillings – around $9.8m at today’s exchange rate.
"Soon after signing the contract in 2013, STRADA simply disappeared a year later in 2014 … and we’ve since filed a court case against the firm … all we want is our money back," Mfugale said, reports newspaper Daily News, describing the contractor as "fugitive".
According to Daily News, the contractor had not even started work on the road which, if true, raises the question of how authorities could have paid a contractor in full for a job not even begun.
Companies House in the UK has just one company registered in that name.
Strada International Building & Civil Engineers Ltd was incorporated in February 2011 with an address in Middlesex, England.
An annual return filed in 2012 lists four directors, three of them British and one a Tanzanian national with a service address in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
A 2013 accounts for a dormant company said Strada had just £100 in the bank that year, and the same in 2012.
In June 2014 Strada received notice of compulsory strike off from Companies House, which can follow a period of dormancy, and it was struck off and dissolved in October that year.
Patrick Mfugale revealed the search for Strada as he explained the long delay of the road, which finally opened this week, making history as the first paved road in Simanjiro District.
In 2015 his agency hired a Chinese contractor, China Henan International Cooperation Group, which did get the road built at a cost of 32.2 billion shillings ($14.3m), supervised by LEA International Engineering of Canada, and in association with a local firm known as DOCH Tanzania.
Image: Elephant in Tanzania with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background (Charles Asik/Wikimedia)