A forum was held in order discuss how to improve the delivery of service to the public and reflect on the work of government institutions. Despite being assured government projects would bring better days, an opposition MP was not convinced by the discussions reports, FASIKA TADESSE, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
The second national good governance meeting between the government and members of the civil service brought 3,000 participants to the Millennium Hall on Thursday. August 14,2014. They heard the performance reports of various government institutions and promised better days to come following the completion of large government projects. Girma Seifu, however, the lone opposition member in parliament, was still disappointed that good governance issues were hardly dealt with at the event.
Called the Good Governance Mobilization Forum, this was the second meeting on the subject to take place in under a year following the first one which was held in October 2013; this forum intends to improve the delivery of service to the public and to design policy solutions to the problems the participants raise.
The meeting was organized by the Ministry of Civil Service (MoCS). Participants were drawn from women and youth leagues, the business community, members of the small and micro enterprises, and people from the service sector. The only media that were invited to cover the event was the Ethiopian Radio & Television Agency (ERTA), Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) and Fana Broadcasting Corporate (FBC).
The meeting was co-chaired by Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegne and Aster Mamo, Minister of Civil Service and Cluster Coordinator for Good Governance & Reform with the rank of Deputy Prime Minister. Hailemariam began the meeting by telling the audience that the intention of the forum was to create long-term solutions to good governance problems.
The full day meeting was mainly marked with the annual performance report of seven selected government institutions, which a repetition of the reports for the past fiscal year, which they had presented at different times following the end of the last fiscal year 2013/14. These institutions were selected because they had good governance problems, according to Aster.
These included the Ministry of Urban Development, Housing & Construction (MoUDHC), Ministry of Trade (MoT), Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Energy (MoWIE), Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Ministry of Transport (MoT), Ethio-Telecom and Ethiopian Revenue & Customs Authority (ERCA). They told the meeting what they had achieved during the last fiscal year and that they had acted on the outcomes of the previous forum which took place in October, without giving any details how the last meeting had affected them.
For Debretsion Gebremichael, deputy Prime Minister for Finance & Economic Cluster and Minister of Communication & Information Technology (MoCIT), the good report included the three-phase project to optimize mobile network coverage in Addis Abeba, especially at Nokia areas, and the installation of the new Fourth Generation (4-G) network; his success report included that Addis Abeba’s network capacity had reached six million mobile phones.
On his part Beker Shale, director general of the ERCA mentioned his office’s achievements since the end of June 2014 including tax cancelation for 567 federal taxpayers, which amounted to four billion Birr in penalty and interest, and tax cancellation for the small and micro enterprises for periods until 2011; they had resisted paying the tax levied on them claiming they were still under establishment.
The performance of the water and electric power was presented by Alemayehu Tegenu, minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy. He explained that Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) had bought 248 additional transformers to enhance the old capacity of the substations which are the reasons for the power cutoff and the problem is most likely solved.
These government institutions, however, also blamed each other for the weaknesses they had during the year. Ethio-Telecom had to purchase 322 generators because of power interruption. Beker accused Ethio Telecom for the continuous telephone network failure that made the service provision of the authority inefficient.
Alemayehu stated that the shortage of water supply is caused by the limited capacity and sluggish process of bids for the supply equipments to be used as the water treatment and distribution plants. He also mentioned old aged transformers and incapable substations as the problems for the country’s power distribution.
To overcome the problem, Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) has bought an additional 248 transformers to enhance the old capacity of the substations which are the reason for the power failures and most problems are now almost solved, according to Alemayehu.
The half day presentation of the government institutions on the performance report are expressed as a normal annual performance of the governmental institutions for Girma. “The report does not include the solutions of the issues mentioned to be improved to the governmental institutions during the last meeting.”
Questions from participants dwelled mainly on infrastructural problems including power interruption, water supply shortage and transportation problems, as well as incompetent experts at ministries and corruption at government institutions in the service which the institutions delivered to the public.
“There is no power supply shortage,” claimed Hailemariam, attributing the power interruption to old transformers.
This is despite Ethiopia falling short of its GTP for power supply by a wide margin: whereas as the GTP planned to more than double the supply from 2,000MW in 2009/10 to 5,054MW by the end of the last fiscal year and go even further to 10,000 a year later, the past four years have seen Ethiopia add only 268MW.
Among companies complaining of incurring huge costs to fuel because of power outage was Joy Tech Plc, an Israeli Horticulture company, which had recently told the EEP that its monthly cost to fuel was 220,000 Br. The past year alone has seen 125 manufacturing companies of different sizes that rely on electric power beginning operations, according to data from the Federal Investment Commission(FIC).
“Even if many manufacturing companies which need more power supply joined the business we are managing to save power by using power saving light bulbs and assisting the companies how to control wastage of power,” Alemayehu told Fortune.
One participant asked for a policy measure so Ethiopia could grow all the wheat it needs rather than importing to meet the demand of its flour mills, while another suggested total restructure of the Ministry of Transport and the Addis Abeba Transport Bureau where, he claimed, corruption was rampant.
For the opposition MP, Girma, the meeting missed its target of analyzing the problems in the government bodies and he said it looked like an election campaign. He described how the officials were presenting and getting reflections from the attendants only about the success stories of the government while covering the visible failures.
Those who made comments during the meeting, picked by Hailemariam, the chair, largely dwelled on praises to the government’s reports of success, some calling for improved power and telecommunication service and stricter control on public transport with in the city. Some of the answers from the prime minister were regarding ongoing projects, such as the completion of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) project in a year’s time easing transport in Addis Abeba.
Hailemariam closed the meeting claiming consensus on both the successes of his government and on problems that needed to be addressed, and a promise that many issues would be resolved with the finalization of ongoing power, transport and telecom projects, including the network optimization expected to become fully operational by Setepmber 2014.
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