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The Government Housing Agency (GHA) has suspended service for indefintely, starting from August 5, in an effort to buy time to resolve corruption and mismanagement issues rooted deep within the agency, it has suspended any house related duties.
The agency announced the suspension of service at its headquarters in Kasanchis, in Kirkos district.
Three weeks after the removal of three directors, including Teferi Fikre, the Drector General and Hailu Adere, his Deputy, from heading the agency because of high corruption and mismanagement, two acting directors from the Ministry of Urban Development and Construction (MoUDC) are investigating employees involved in the cases and are planning to restructure the agency.
This time will also be used to null directives issued by the agency while the three ex-directors were at their posts, according to Hailemariam, Acting Director for the agency, who was leading the meeting.
The agency held its first meeting at Hager Fikir theatre hall on August 7, 2013, after the three directors were removed.
At the meeting, the employees, numbering roughly 800, complained over the corruption network left by the three directors and about increasing their salary, which they claimed has remained the same for the last five years. MoUDC’s acting directors told the employees that they will not resume work until the network is broken, the employees involved are held accountable and the agency is restructured.
“It might take one to two months, at least,” said the public relations head of the agency, after the meeting.
The agency administers government houses taken over from the Derg regime, provides housing for government officials and also rents out residences to the public.
The agency, formerly known as Rental Houses Administration Enterprise, is accountable to MoUDC.
“It was decided to remove the three directors and to clear the agency out once and for all, after over 6,000 complaints were filed to the ministry from clients, within four months – from January 2013,” said Hailemariam.
The ministry has also produced a research document of 326 pages, which was crafted over the last eight months and will help to restructure the agency, according to Hailemariam.
“Even high government officials have known about the grand corruption and mismanagement in the agency for a long time. However, the agency was busy with Small and Micro Enterprises (SMEs) issues before, and we are now here to solve the problems once and for all. Sorry we are late,” echoed Hailemariam.
While the agency has halted its service, there are 2,100 housing queries filed to the agency from residents, including 12 from Defence Ministry’s generals and 11 from different governmental institutions’ state ministers.
However, there are currently only 54 vacant houses under the agency, out of the 18,500 houses the agency administers in Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa, according to Hailemariam.
“Most of the agency’s houses are rented out through brokers in the city, with the average going rate of 1,500 birr per month, though the price for these houses does not exceed a few hundred birr,” said Hailemariam.
Renting out government houses at high prices, accepting sums of money to displace a client from a business house and give it to another, selling the houses, selling construction and maintenance materials, firing and lowering employees’ rank without any reason, and renting the houses for residents living abroad are some of cases the agency is attempting to resolve.
“Government could not apply the Business Process Reengineering (BPR) within the agency to date, because of the network set up by the three directors and their executives under them, to operate this corruption and mismanagement,” said Hailemariam.