Tanzania says two officials charged for stealing quake relief funds

By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania has charged at least two senior public officials over allegations of embezzlement of earthquake relief funds, President John Magufuli said on Wednesday. The officials were sacked on Tuesday following allegations that they had set up a fake bank account to siphon off relief funds given in response to a 5.7 magnitude earthquake which killed at least 17 people and made thousands homeless. "A regional administrative secretary and a district executive director were charged in court today," Magufuli said in Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam. The president warned public officials that anyone who engages in corruption over the relief funds, which have poured in from foreign and domestic donors, will face swift punishment. "Our people are suffering as a result of this earthquake and require emergency relief assistance, yet these dishonest officials are trying to benefit financially from this tragedy," he said. Tanzania has appealed for international assistance to help rebuild thousands of homes after the quake, which struck the northwestern town of Kagera on Sept 10. The government has set up a special bank account for quake funds and has been collecting cash and material contributions for the relief effort. The two public officials are alleged to have set up a parallel bank account under the same name as the government's official relief fund to divert funds for their own personal use, said the president. Magufuli said Britain gave 2.3 million pounds on Wednesday. "We are receiving these donations from the United Kingdom and others because our development partners are now confident that their financial assistance will be well spent," he said. Since his election in October, reformist Magufuli has launched a far-reaching crackdown on corruption, which businesses have long highlighted as a major obstacle to investment in Tanzania. The country ranked 117 out of 168 countries in Transparency International's 2015 index of least corrupt countries. No.1 is deemed the least corrupt. Magufuli has already dismissed several senior officials, including the head of the government's anti-graft body, the country's top tax chief, a senior rail official and the head of the country's port authority. (Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Dominic Evans)