By Staff Reporter
August 5, 2019 (Ezega.com) -- The Ethiopian Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission has been made inactive after its mandate and responsibilities were taken over by the attorney general and federal police offices, a senior official said
The commission's mandate including the right to investigate and file charges against suspects of corruption has been taken over by others following decision of parliament. That has put the very existence of the commission into question, Wedu Ate, Ethiopian Ethics and Anti-Corruption Deputy Commissioner said.
Speaking to journalists, Wedu stated that employees of the commission, including those who are in leadership positions are not willing to attend the general meeting of the commission which is currently only in offering trainings.
The deputy commissioner recalled that there were no adequate discussions and research when the decision was reached to disable the commission from its powers and mandate to investigate and prosecute suspects of corruption.
"We were not even asked to comment on the draft law on removing the commission's power and responsibilities, the deputy commissioner recalled, adding that "now, the general public is repeatedly asking if the commission is functioning or not," he said
The commission had brought very high-profile corruption case against high-ranking government officials and prominent businessmen back in October 2013.
The Government of Ethiopia established the anti-corruption commission in 2001. Its powers are defined in the revised Proclamation 433 of 2005. Ethiopia’s Anti-Corruption Commission’s mandate is only at the federal level, which includes the chartered cities of Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa. Since 2007, seven of the nine regional state governments have established their own anti-corruption commissions to fight and prevent corruption in their respective regions. The Commission adopted Hong Kong’s three-pronged approach to fighting corruption, which incorporates investigation, prosecution and prevention or ethics education.
In a large scale operation that saw the apprehension of around 60 high-profile individuals back in 2014, the government claimed it lost close to 800 million Br due to the alleged corruption offences. They allegedly took place between 2008 and 2012, while Melaku Fenta, the Netherlands-educated former head of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA), was at the helm of the Authority and was credited with boosting government revenue from 19 billion Br in 2008 to 84.2 billion Br in 2012 from taxes.
If the government wants to speed up the ongoing reforms, it needs independent institutions, including the Anti-Corruption Commission, the deputy commissioner said, adding that the decision to take away its powers and responsibilities were made after almost no discussions.
Yeshimebe Negash, Legal, Justice, Democratic and Foreign Affairs Standing Committee of the House of People's Representatives, was quoted as saying that the commission's mandate to investigate and prosecute suspects of corruption was taken over by attorney general in a bid to administer legal issues under one umbrella.
"When the law was approved, it faced serious opposition, but not to the extent of turning down the law that gave the attorney general the power to investigate and prosecute suspects of corruption." she added.
Critics of the Anti-Corruption Commission have long complained that the commission was not as impartial and as powerful as it was envisioned to be. They claim the commission rarely investigated the powerful and the rich, such as powerful ministers, senior government officials, and senior military figures, some of whom they believe were involved in corruption at one point or another during their tenure.
Some critics also accuse the commission for serving as a tool for powerful political figures to attack perceived opponents. For example, these people believe that the last high-profile case the commission prosecuted in 2013 was motivated by revenge from then head of national security and would not have been brought forward otherwise.