Officials in the higher echelons of the city government are to receive generous incentive packages ranging from free housing to a five million Birr renovation allowance from the Addis Abeba City Administration. The incentive includes deputy mayors, cabinet members and heads of several bureaus under the Administration.

A directive prepared by the Addis Abeba Public Service & Human Resource Development Bureau under Hikman Hayreddin was approved by the 45-member of the city cabinet in early January. According to Binyam Mikru, head of the department of cabinet affairs, the decision aims to "enhance" the performance of officials seated in leadership roles.

However, the city administration under Mayor Adanech Abiebie has no budget appropriated to pay for the benefits. The City Cabinet approved 100 billion Br for the budget year, where 4.3 billion Br was set aside as an envelope (reserve) budget.

Properties owned by the City Housing Corporation will be provided while up to a million Birr is allocated for household items. These officials are also entitled to utility bills and free medical care in domestic hospitals and abroad, along with their family members, including minors. They would be issued laptops and mobile phones, items they would keep even after leaving offices.

According to Mebratu Gebre, deputy head of the city administration's finance bureau, there is no budget allotted for the incentive for this year, with a possibility to finance it from the envelope (reserve) budget.

"The reserve budget covers unanticipated expenses such as this," Mebratu told Fortune.

This decision has not earned popularity inside and outside the city administration.

Girma Sefu, an Ethiopian Citizens for Social Justice (EZEMA) member, serves as a commissioner for the Addis Abeba Investment Commission. He was displeased to learn about such a generous package for senior officials in the Administration he works for, although he believes they should serve as a call for public duty.

Others fear the disparity of entitlement with the high brass demotivates the rank and file in the city's public service.

Challa Amdissa, a public service lecturer at Addis Abeba University, recognised the nationwide salary scale failing to meet the bare minimum in covering living wages. However, he warns the focus on higher officials discourages employees in the lower rank under dire economic constraints. He believes salary increment is a crucial issue that should be considered as it does not align with inflationary pressure in the economy.

Meaza Alemu is one of the 162,400 people employed by 42 bureaus and agencies under the city administration. Working for the Land Management Bureau as the secretariat for 10 years, she has seen not much change in her life for the better. Meaza lives in her parent's house with her husband and two daughters, earning a monthly gross salary of 4,000 Br. A 1,000 Br housing allowance is nowhere near paying for decent accommodations in the capital.

Her faith in getting a raffle for public housing has been dashed following an announcement by officials of the Ministry of Urban Development & Infrastructure a few weeks ago that no condominium unit was constructed during the fiscal year. Meanwhile, the moratorium passed by the Mayor's Office suspending homeowners from increasing rental fees will end in the coming month.

Meaza has little hope about prospects for a public salary review and began watching outside, seeking a better offer.

In August last year, the City Administration revised the regulation of public service employees' determining the office they hold, the salary structure and allowances for rent from 1,000 Br to 1,500 Br.

Atnafu GebereMesekel, lecturer of economics at Addis Abeba University, argued that the incentive had become a way to misuse public funds and lead to more inequality between the political elite and ordinary people. He warns that the entitlement could push officials to fight for promotions to higher jobs.

PUBLISHED ON Feb 11,2023 [ VOL 23 , NO 1189]

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