Committee condemns Public Enterprises Trustee Board for illegal practices

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The Public Account Affairs Standing Committee of the House of Peoples’ Representatives gave stern warning to the Public Enterprises Trustee Board (PETB). The committee accused the supervisory board of mishandling public assets and neglecting citizens’ rights. According to the committee, it couldn’t clearly identify who decided on the sale of public properties and in what manner. It stated that the manner the sales were handled was not transparent since the board has no clear guidelines to ensure such a practice. The findings, identified as weaknesses, can be categorized into five major areas of concern. These were found to be illegal practices, not protecting the interests of the government, neglecting citizens’ rights, missing documents including cheques and vouchers, and lack of leadership.    
“The inquiry of the committee was based on the findings of the Auditor General.  The above points generally prove the absence of proper practices and instruments for protecting public and citizens’ rights.  Since such practices open the door for illegal acts like mischief we can’t say that the board has done the duties entrusted to it by law,” Teshome Eshetu, Vice Chairman of the Committee told Capital.
Most of the representatives of the board who were present at the House to respond to queries raised by members of the committee were noted by the Vice chairman to having difficulty in trying to explain or reply to the allegations.
The committee highlighted that the board had problems deciding floor prices for auctioned assets. It also said that clear cut procedures were not in place to aid and facilitate the decision making process in regards to the carrying out of different floor price quotations forwarded by the auction committee, thereby resulting in decisions which came about in very unclear circumstances and for which there seems to be no single person accountable.  The committee attributed the above malfunctioning of the board to its inability to prepare a procedure that clearly identifies the duties of the management and that of the board chairman.     
The committee also proved that the board did not follow government procedures on the transfer of government-owned properties. As a result, the board accepted fixed assets which were not approved by its members. It also said that, for the past eight years, the board did not adjust the price of goods it transfers based on market indicators. For instance, out of 13 shops and offices rented by the board, the rent price of 12 of them (92 percent) was not adjusted to market price. The committee also said that the sale of the Dire Dawa Textile Factory (before the transfer of the property to the Board was completed) plus the sale of the Debre Birhan Textile Factory and Addis Tire Factory, without being auctioned, for a sum close to 1.6 million birr could be raised as a case-in-point to demonstrate the illegal and murky practices of the Board. 
The board has received assets without the correct or no documentation and without properly inspecting the kind, amount and value of the asset it was responsible for [especially when they were organized as share companies], from the Privatization and Public Enterprises Supervising Authority (PPESA). These were the Addis Tire Factory, the Debre Birhan Textile Factory and the Addis Spare Parts Importer and Distributor Share Company. It was discovered that there was an asset that was not included in the capital of these companies worth a little over 57 million birr. In regards to the Dire Dawa Textile Factory, there were 18,000 line items and assets worth over 24 million birr that were transferred to the Board without any documentation whatsoever.  
The board was also blamed for not putting in place a mechanism that ensured the participation of stakeholders.
“The board has not yet devised a mechanism that can ensure the participation of the Privatization and Public Enterprise Supervisory Agency (PPESA). Due to the lack of such a mechanism, the board has received unaudited accounts of the Addis Ababa Yarn Factory for over eight years,” reads the document sent to Capital by the House.     
It also discovered that 30 cash payment vouchers were missing as well as 13 account recording vouchers and 12 check payment vouchers.
“The disappearance of “The 55 accounting documents were said to be lost during transfer. However, no one was held accountable for their disappearance,” continues the document.   
The document also accuses the board of illegally paying fringe benefits to workers of the National Tour Organization and Chora Gas and Chemical Products Organization, upon the order of the Privatization and Public Enterprises Supervising Agency (PPESA). It also highlights that the board has unlawfully collected rent, on property that was not transferred, after the Fafa Food Factory was sold upon the request of PPESA. The same holds true for fuel authorization.