The high profile corruption arrest of officials of the Ethiopian Revenue and Customs Authority (ERCA) and prominent business people is having an adverse effect,
as business owners are complaining that they are hindered by indecisive ERCA employees, hesitant to decide for fear of adverse consequences.
At a quarterly consultative forum ERCA held at Ghion Hotel on Monday December 2, where over 800 business representatives attended, several business people criticized the service provided by the Authority.
“They need to make decisions but they don’t have the confidence to do so, as they fear that they might be held responsible in case the decision might be considered wrong,” one speaker told the officials from ERCA who chaired the gathering. “This is a very serious problem and some sort of resolution should be reached,” she added.
According to the participants, this is creating delays in their business activity.
Beker Shale, Director of ERCA, said that this perception is inaccurate.
“The government doesn’t take actions or make decisions blindly,” he said.
He added employees of the Authority have the freedom to make decisions. This is not a concern for everybody. “If one does their job wisely and consciously, they should be confident,” he added.
The Director urged employees not to be afraid and to do their job rationally and legally because a lack of confidence creates delays in service delivery. It may also cause taxpayers to conduct, illegal activities to get business done more quickly.
Business owners say that the Authority should train employees and help build their self confidence, however the Director countered that if workers are hesitant and indecisive they should resign.
“We are planning to make those people with this feeling liable,” he said.
Back in May this year, the Authority evaluated 8,000 employees of the Federal Customs and Revenue branches [excluding 12 branches in Addis] and expelled eight employees. Hundreds of other employees are also under scrutiny, according to the Director. They might be subject to warnings or administrative decisions or other penalties, depending on the severity of their mistakes or illegal actions.
The Director also said “it is nonsense to fire everyone who makes a mistake.”
“What we want is to make people learn from the decision, not fire people,” he said.
Participants also protested high demurrage and storage fees which mean higher prices passed on to consumers in addition to what they say are biased, undocumented and irrational tax fees and a lack of communication between the Authority and businesses.
This one-day forum was held to brief the business society about the performance of the Authority over the last couple of months