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News of the arrest of Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority heads along with private business men and women on alleged corruption and tax fraud crimes continues to be the talk of the town. On Friday May 10th, the Ethiopian Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) announced that ERCA’s Director Melaku Fenta and his deputy, Gebrewahid Woldegiorgis, were detained along with other 23 suspects.
The list of those detained went on to include Eshetu Woldesemayat, Head Prosecutor of ERCA, Asmelash Woldemariam, Kaliti Branch Customs Head, Tiruneh Berta, Confiscated Property Administration Head of ERCA, Amogne Tagele, Nazareth Branch Customs Head, and Mulugeta Gashaw, engineer at the Oromia Regional State Special Zone.
The infamous list continued with the names of local businessmen such as Ketema Kebede, owner of KK Trading Plc, Semachew Kebede, owner of Intercontinental Addis Hotel, Mehereteab Abraha, investor and youngest brother of Siye Abraha, Nega Gebregziabher, owner of Netsa Trading, Zerihun Zewde and others.
This news has brought about hot discussions in cafes, stores, taxis, bars, hair dressers and other places where people gather. A lot of different opinions are being expressed, some expressing their appreciation for the FEACC, some protesting that more should be done and others just expressing their disbelief that such high level officials could even get involved in corruption. Capital tried to gather here a selection of these opinions.
“I think our government ministry offices are performing much better than my expectation. I found very positive, patriotic, and cooperative people in government agencies. This shows me that the transformation isn’t just a dream. GO ETHIOPIA!!”
“Why only ERCA? There are a lot of people who are in government and in high authorities and people who own a lot of assets who are highly corrupted. All the names on the news are well known in the city. Focus on other governmental offices and people; there are a lot. Focus on the people who own most of the high rise buildings, companies and other assets.”
“It is really embarrassing to see our top officials and most respected investors of our time getting arrested for corruption! The message it sends is bad to whoever is taking over, basically the coming generation.”
“Corruption mostly happens in governmental organizations. Actually almost all corruption cases I believe. That is because with life getting more expensive every day, the employees there can’t afford it. Their salary doesn’t support anything. I mean if they had good salary I’m sure they won’t be corrupt in the 1st place, but once they start it, it becomes an addiction. No matter how rich they get they won’t stop, just like the men from ERCA that were arrested.”
“I live in the U.S, a very well governed country. From time to time you witness very high officials getting caught in corruption and ending up in the courts and then in jail. For instance in the last 6 years I can recall of two governors who got prosecuted for bribing and the same thing about four parliamentarians (elected congress officials).
Countries like the U.S are very well governed because they prosecute all corrupt officials; whether they are high level or low level officials, but such high level prosecutions in well governed countries is not common because most high level officials in well governed countries don’t engage in such corruptions.
The reason is that they don’t dare to engage in corruption because they know the oversight and legal system is very powerful and strong. Don’t think that any country will be rocked to the core because high level officials get prosecuted. In fact you should expect such prosecutions from time to time if Ethiopia’s governance system becomes as strong as well governed countries like America.”
“How true are these allegations? We know Gebrewahid, he has a lot of public enemy because of his over strict policy in the customs department. Also the other businessmen arrested in the same day, it is not even known how they are involved. What is the link between the businessmen and the government officials? We need more explanation about this issue, because there are still some very confusing matters.”
“You can’t eliminate corruption 100 percent. No country has ever achieved that or can achieve that. The only thing any country can do is keep corruption to the minimum level so it won’t hurt the country in any significant way.”
“Well, it is a good start. I hope it will be taken care of genuinely. May God bless Ethiopia.”
“We tour operators are the ones who are most hurt by this, we have been giving tips on corruption to the Ethiopian Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and we highly support the actions the Commission has been taking.”
An official of tour operators association
“It’s a good beginning. If the Commission goes into other government offices and investigates, I am sure they will find a lot of corrupt deeds. That should be their next step.”
“The solution to fight corruption is not to fight the act but the root.”
“Good job! This is from God not from people. The time has come.”
“Wait a minute! This sounds very suspicious. If these people can stop corruption by arresting the people that will enforce the tax laws, they have to also start arresting the same people that are responsible for the illicit outflows of money. These are the same people who conveniently retired from government offices to live a posh life outside Ethiopia. Mr. Hailemariam, start detaining these people, and we’ll believe that you mean business. Otherwise, it’s a sham, as usual!”
“Back in 2008 the then MP Temesgen Zewdie told the Head of the corruption watchdog, Commissioner Ali Suleman, to ‘Hunt hawks not small birds’. Ali refused to listen to Temesgen’s suggestions. Last Tuesday Ali told parliament (using the very same expression!!!) that it was the late PM Meles Zenawi who said that and gave him an assignment to go after the big fishes. I just don’t get why Ali feels he has to credit the idea or rather the remarks to Meles.”
“To really be honest disregarding who is actually calling the shots I’m trying to see it in a hopeful mindset, that this could be a serious cleanup. But the thing is if it is really that, we all know it never stops here, lots of seats are going to be left open and lots of the old timers are going to join them as well.”
“Shame on them. I hope they hunt down all of those who are corrupt and throw them in prison.”
“Good job PM Hailemariam! Keep up the good work!”
“I now feel that there is a government after all! I was starting to despair. ”
From the service sector
“The move is appreciated. It is high time the government takes such a measure. But I wonder how the few business men were rounded? What were the criteria? Why them and not others?”