Political Platitude, Empty Promise No Way to Abate Corruption

Dec 31 , 2022
By Eden Sahle

I talked with several individuals visiting district offices in Addis Abeba, and surprisingly, the majority were deeply disappointed by the treatment they get. A few who have seemingly lost control of their emotions even tried to get physical with the employees. They had one thing in common: they refused to pay bribes.

It has become a norm for district employees to examine documents and calculate an individual's or a company's income to set bribe rates. Public servants in a particular district demand as much as 60,000 Br to process a service request. This district is popularly labelled as "the most expensive corner" because of the high stipulation. Employees of the district offices threaten to destroy documents when customers decline to make deals.

Some speak about the ordeal they went through for months before giving in and paying the requested amount to get expedited services.

Corruption has become a grand issue complicating services. It continues to be a significant barrier to economic growth, good governance, and fundamental rights preventing citizens from holding governments accountable. It harms individuals, families, and the public with devastating consequences.

Enacting anti-corruption as a legal instrument is nothing without proper implementation. It does not seem as if the government is tackling the growing problem of the ever-increasing suffering of citizens.

Employees at private companies are not immune.

My husband was in the process of making a multi-million-Birr deal after winning a bid with an edible oil-producing company. He fulfilled all the technical and financial requirements and was ready to sign the contract. He was informed of one more thing he needed to sign: a bribe. They had provided him with long-term plans for spending the large chunk of cash. My husband's effort to speak to the owners was frustrating as those employees blocked him from going forward.

He was forced to drop the project.

A blind eye should not be turned to the illicit activities of officials and private companies, leaving the country in shambles, unable to deliver the most basic services to citizens. The gross mismanagement debilitates the country and forces many to shut down their businesses, severely damaging the already recessed economy.

It seems to be the norm in the continent.

According to Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimation, Africa loses nearly 90 billion dollars annually, 3.7pc of its gross domestic product, in illicit financial flows. Ethiopia and other African countries top Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.

The magnitude of the problem is alarming.

A few months back, a family member bought a property from a real estate developer. The developer directed him to choose either a senior man or a woman responsible for the title deed transfer on his behalf. He chose the woman but later found out that her charges for the service were high, claiming to share it with employees from the district who processed his case.

We were shocked by how she managed to get things done and how proudly she spoke of her vast connection within the district: employees who shared a piece of the pie. The request methods are dynamic and interwoven, and the channels vary from place to place.

Public bids often involve corruption. Bidders accepted it as the norm to win a project. Instead of trying to win the project by offering a reasonable price and delivering the work, they spent time studying the bidder's profile. The doom and gloom of rampant corruption, the lack of stringent ethical control, and economic, political, and social problems force citizens to comply to get service.

None of the institutions' established to fight corruption has hardly provided effective bribe control mechanisms. Effective bribe control remained just a platitude of politicians to give the public an empty promise. It is considered a business.

Fighting corruption teaches citizens to bind to the rule of law, creating political stability and economic progress, while lack of commitment can eventually cause dysfunction.

PUBLISHED ON Dec 31,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1183]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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