Aug 8 , 2020

As of the coming Ethiopian New Year, all members of the civil service at the regional and federal levels are required to register their assets, including financial and non-financial properties.

Under the new registration, the Federal Ethics & Anti Corruption Commission is set to register the assets of one million public servants working across the country. The registration, which is expected to be finalised by the end of this fiscal year, will be held at all primary government institutions and carried out by trained liaison officers. As a start, the Commission selected 12 government offices.

Since 2011, the Commission has registered the assets of 22,000 parliament members, political appointees and high-ranking government officials. It also compiled over 200,000 documents. The deadline for the registration of higher public officials passed on August 6, 2020.

The Commission has started registering the assets of the government officials following the issuance of the Disclosure & Registration of Assets Proclamation in 2010.

The initiative to register the assets of public officials was started following the United Nations Convention against Corruption and the African Union Convention on Preventing & Combating Corruption. The initiative aims at ensuring transparency, fighting corruption and avoiding conflicts of interest. The Commission is mandated with registering, verifying and disclosing the assets of the public officials.

The proclamation obliged the public officials to disclose and register assets under their ownership, possessions of themselves and their families, and sources of their and their families' incomes within 45 days of their appointment. Common property acquired through inheritance, household goods, personal effects and pension benefits are exempted from registration.

The vulnerability of public servants to corruption pushed the Commission to register their assets, according to Mesfin Belayenh, an asset registration expert at the Commission.

Last year, Ethiopia improved its ranking on the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The country scored 37 out of 100 based on the level of public sector corruption and was ranked 96th out of 180 countries, improving from the 114th position it earned the previous year.

"If people failed to cooperate with the registration programme," said Mesfin, "the Commission will take a case to the Federal Police Commission and to the Office of the Attorney General."

Since 2015, the Ministry of Revenues has already started registering the assets of its employees through its own initiative.

For the registration of the assets, the Commission gave a day-and-a-half training session for liaison officers to the ethics and anti-corruption departments of every public office at the federal and regional level.

Mulugeta Aregawi, a constitutional law expert and an assistant professor and lecturer at Addis Abeba University, appreciates the asset registration effort as a way of ensuring transparency.

"However, the government has the mandate to publish all the information it registered to make it accessible for the public," said Mulugeta. "It should be accessible through the website of the Commission."

Currently, anyone who wants to get data about the registered assets of public offices needs to submit inquiries and go through various bureaucratic processes, according to Mulugeta.

PUBLISHED ON Aug 08,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1058]

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