Feb. 27, 2012
Sebhat Nega, one of the founders of the TPLF and a veteran fighter during the armed struggle, made a statement last week that raised eyebrows around town. If left unchecked, corruption could undermine the nation’s development efforts, although it might not have reached that capability yet, Sebhat warned, serving as a director general for the Ethiopian International Institute for Peace & Development (EIIPD).
Speaking to the media at a conference that his Institute, a federal think-tank on foreign policy issues, organised at the Ghion Hotel, on Wednesday, February 22, 2012, Sebhat also criticised the government for doing little in practical terms to fight corruption, while there are widespread rumours among members of the public about government officials and federal agencies suspected of being corrupt.
Federal agencies, such as the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority (ERCA) are rife with what the public perception that Sebhat alluded to accuses them of, a new study has confirmed.
Conducted for the second time in a decade, after securing a close to eight million Birr, fund from the World Bank, the corruption perception survey was released a day before Sebhat’s statement at the Ghion.
Close to 17pc of business enterprises that responded to questionnaires had been asked to pay gratification in return for services at public institutions over the past 12 months, they said, according to the second nationwide corruption survey, which was commissioned by the Federal Ethics & Anticorruption Commission (FEAC) and conducted by a Tanzanian-based US company, Kilimanjaro International Corporation (KIC), after beating 19 bidders.
The survey measures views, perceptions, and experience of respondents from the pubic on corruption and its perception. Nonetheless, corruption is rated as the seventh-most serious socioeconomic problem experienced by citizens in the country, preceded by a lack of access to safe drinking water, food shortages, lack of quality roads and networks, poor public transportation, unemployment, and high cost of living and inflation, in that order.
A considerable amount of the public has to “catalyse” the efficiency of the services they seek from public institutions through extra payments, in the forms of gratification, the survey finds.
The survey identified the judiciary, law enforcement community, municipalities, and the ERCA as places that most people perceived as being prone to corruption and inefficient public service delivery.
The ERCA was singled out 10 years ago during the first survey, although it was then divided into three federal agencies: the Ministry of Revenues, the Ethiopian Customs Authority (ECA), and the Federal Inland Revenues Authority (FIRA).
It was believed that forming a single large and powerful federal Agency could provide a base for a modern and equitable tax and customs administration regime, effective resource utilisation and fast service delivery. However, despite the relentless efforts made so far towards combating corruption and providing effective public service, specially, in the areas of custom clearance, as well as tax and revenue collection, it has remained a challenge both to the service provider and the service seeker, according to the new survey.
A study by the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC) also corroborate the findings in this survey.
“A standard export shipment of goods from Ethiopia requires seven documents and takes an average of 42 days at a cost of 1,760 dollars per container whereas a standard import shipment of goods requires nine documents and takes an average of 44 days at a cost of 2,660 dollars per container,” according to the World Bank.
The same message was also echoed by the business community, during the second Public Private Consultative Forum (PPCF) held at Sheraton Addis, two weeks ago. The ERCA suffers from about eight shortcomings, including a lack of clarity on procedures as well as an absence of coordination among federal agencies that make decisions at various stages of importing.
Though corruption remains a problem in the country, as strongly emphasised by Sebhat, the two topmost problems faced by citizens - inflation and unemployment - have perceivably created a conducive environment and breeding ground for corruption.
The complexity of the government procurement procedures and the requirement to pay gratification to public officials were among the major obstacles that the business community faces in doing business with the government, the survey also revealed.
“Managing inflation should constitute an important element in the fight against corruption,” the report recommends.
However, rumours of corruption by agencies and senior government officials should be urgently investigated to determine whether they have any merit, Sebhat suggested.
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