Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Corruption watchdog shields three under witness protection

Using a whistleblower legislation approved last year for the first time, the Federal Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (FEACC) is shielding three people under a witness protection program.
Ali Sulaiman, Commissioner of the ethics watchdog, says his Commission is providing the protection that is necessary for all involved in corruption related investigations and prosecutions.
The Commissioner adds all three, who needed the Commission’s protection against possible threats, have been put under a witness protection program during the first six months of the budget year which runs from July to December.
A six month performance report of the Commission says 18 people have asked for the protection during the period. According to the Wittiness Protection bill approved by parliament in January 2011, such protections could extend from being relocated to carrying government weapons to be used in self defense. The witness protection program, run by the Justice Ministry, could deploy armed guards, and secret surveillance to safeguard witnesses and whistle blowers on major crimes including grand corruption. 
“We have put only three people under protection because we determined that they are the only ones who really need it. Others came and sought protection without due reasons, sometimes even in family related quarrels that are not related with corruption and cases we are not going to investigate,” the Commissioner explained.
Such “misunderstandings” of the Commission’s mandate are also reflected in tips provided during the six months, according to the Commissioner.
1600 “tips” to investigate possible corruption cases were provided to the Commission in the period. However, only 760 fall under the mandate of the Commission and have been taken in. The Commission says it enjoys a conviction rate of 82 percent of cases it has pursued.
“We had run an extensive public awareness campaign explaining which areas fall under the commission’s mandate and which don’t. But at some point since the campaign was widespread I feared it could discourage people from coming to us; so we stopped it as we don’t want to lose the flow of tips that lead us to investigate major corruption cases,” Ali added.
According to article seven of the 2001 proclamation, the FEACC is responsible for investigation and prosecution of any alleged or suspected corruption offences specified in the Criminal Code or in other laws but only when they are committed in public offices or public enterprises, or in regional offices relating to subsidies granted by the federal Government to the regions.
The Commission also oversees Dire Dawa city administration with its branch office stationed there. So far it is only Somali that did not setup its own regional anticorruption watchdog.
FEACC last year announced plans to push for a bill aiming at putting power of investigating corruption cases in the private sector to also fall within the power of the commission.