The government is drafting a new bill that mandates ethics liaison officers at government institutions to directly report to the Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission.
Established a decade ago, ethics liaison units are mandated to coordinate ethical issues and advise the heads of institutions. The officers are also mandated to prevent corruption and impropriety, as well as to expose and investigate corrupt officials.
The amendment came into effect following complaints lodged by the liaison officers, according to Haregot Abreha, director of ethics infrastructure coordinating at the Commission.
“Liaison officers are subjected to hostilities,” said Haregot, “and the system was not actually effective in fighting corruption.”
Yayehyirad Atinafu, ethics liaison office head at Assosa University, is one of the victims of such hostility. He was switched to another office after exposing irregularities.
Yayehyirad and other ethics liaison officers are currently reporting to the heads of the institutions at the enterprises where they work.
“This made our job less effective,” Yayehyirad told Fortune. “The regulation doesn’t give us a cover for any repercussions that come along in fulfilling our duties.”
The liaison officers have been harassed for reporting corruption taking place at the different institutions, according to Haregot.
There are a total of 260 ethics liaison officers in the government, but 60 posts are currently inactive due to a high turnover rate, which the Commission is working to mitigate.
Ethiopia is listed as a moderately corrupt nation, ranking 107th least corrupt out of 180 countries, according to the 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.
After the approval of the regulation, the Commission will create a department that will be mandated to assist the ethics liaison officers. The office will be fully tasked to monitor the activities of the ethics liaison officers and oversee their replacements.
The bill, which has been under amendment since last August, is currently up for public deliberation before it is pushed up the chain to the heads of the Commission for approval. Once the heads of the Commission approved it, the bill will be sent to the Council of Ministers for final approval.
“We expect to submit the bill to the Council of Ministers before the end of this budget year,” Haregot said.
Experts who have been following the anti-corruption effort of the Commission commend the move and yet suggest accountability should be shared among the institutions and the Commission.
The Commission should let reports of corruption activities by officers of an institution be handled by the respective institutions themselves,” argued Tewodros Meheret, an assistant professor and attorney with over two decades of experience.
“The higher level corruption should be directly reported to the Commission,” said Tewodros. “Yet minor corruption cases should be reported to the institution’s executive.”
Established in 2001, the Commission, used to be mandated to file charges in the courts after undertaking investigations. With an amended proclamation three years ago, the Commission’s mandate was narrowed down and streamlined to speed up the investigations and information gathering. Since then the Commission’s authority has been limited to facilitation, planning and reporting activities of the liaison officers. The Office of the Attorney General will file charges and follow the cases based on the investigation report of the Commission.
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