Corruption on Top of Tax Addled Nation

The recent outcry to the high estimates imposed upon some taxpayers has added to the outrage felt last year in two of the country's largest regions. The nation's stability is being rocked again after a number of officials overseeing large projects were arrested on charges of corruption. All of these events are commingling to elevate the amount of distrust between the government and its constituents.

The daily sales income revision has become of late a controversial issue among the business community. Atkilit G/Egziabher, support and monitor director at the Ethiopian Revenues & Customs Authority’s Addis Abeba branch, has been giving interviews on the subject, an effort even more confusing as it was inconsistent and hard to follow by even the elites of the subject.

It has now grown to an issue that could revitalize the extended state of emergency that was supposed to last only six months. It has added to the massive peaceful protests that went on until people knew that blindly heeding government calls was not the answer and police brutality has stifled citizens’ lives.

The indulgence was made even clearer when the government tried to reassure the people that the police had never made decisions they were not allowed by law to do. This statement has been an intriguing puzzle that seemed to expose other members of the central executives in the central orbit in the higher echelons of power. Of course, this has been known and been believed to be the case. The concept of doing what is politically profitable rather than moral has been deeply engraved within the government.

Otherwise, they would have stepped in to settle matters before matters got out of hand.

The latest reports coming from the government headed by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) reveal that more than three dozen officials have been rounded and arrested by the security forces for crimes they have been suspected of having committed.

What many people may have reckoned from the beginning is that Fekade Haile (Eng.), the former director general of the Addis Ababa City Roads Authority, has been arrested too. He served as the engineer responsible for new roads and the expansion of older ones. The position may have been susceptible to key project tenders, selection of winners and dealing with land owners who may be reallocated. He might have misappropriated public funds meant for infrastructure and other uses.

Going by the government’s report, it looks like most of the people that were held under custody are in the field of engineering. Other officials of lower stature are also included in the list from the various sugar factories that were planned but did not materialise. The whole thing could hardly be taken as a reply to the people’s expectations that more senior officials in the federal government may be corrupt. This drama did not come much as a surprise to Ethiopians who had lost their respect to the position of many officials.

What goes on in Ethiopia, however, draws the attention of vital pages of newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times and a few members of the American Senate who have already drafted reports pertaining to matters that have taken place in this and the past year. This has shocked many in the ruling party who have not expected such big weights in international politics to take note. The US Congress could at any time draft a bill that gives leeway to the US President to impose sanctions of all sorts on top party officials.

This can happen to any government that is found to be mistreating its own people. It could greatly affect those officials who might have stolen from the taxpayers.

At a time when big and small fish are being victimized under the pretext of revising the rate of daily sales estimation, an unfair imposition of taxes may cause businesses to shut down and, thereby, wake up the slumbering peaceful protest from corner to corner once again.

There could be other more serious issues on the verge of flaring up. The bonds bought to collect money for the great dam are maturing and waiting to be refunded with or without a standing bank rate of interest. The government more than at any time will have to live up to its words.

From where can the government repay the bond owners? And what happens if they do not repay the promised amount?

Many business men and women are unfamiliar with the new revision not only because the concerned officials were not clear on how it was to be implemented, but because they did not have patience and their decision seemed to be wavering. Sometimes they say they are just surveying and, other times, tell taxpayers to pay at least the estimated amount and keep requesting for an appeal.

In one case, a trader was so shocked by the estimates he fell down and died. This, of course, can only be verified by doctors.

Was his heart attack caused by the stunning news that could have affected his blood circulation?

I speculate it was the bad news.

By Girma Feyissa

Published on Aug 05,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 901]



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