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The Government of Ethiopia’s latest corruption crackdown, in which 59 officials and business people suspected of corruption charges were arrested,was said to have strong connection with audit findings that Federal Auditor General have been presented to the House of People’s Representatives over the years, The Reporter has learnt.
In fact, the arrest came weeks after a meeting held at the HPR, where members of parliament and the Auditor General asked BerhanuTsegaye,the Federal Attorney General, to take action on government offices and officials exhibiting grave audit gaps in their financial books and were unable rectify the problems in spite of ample time given to do so.
During the meeting,Berhanu told MPs that his office is working on identifying cases.
“We assume that our audit findings might have contributed to the arrest of some of the officials,” GemechuDebiso, Federal Auditor General, told The Reporter.
In his statement On Friday, April 12, 2019,Berhanu told the local media that those officials from three institutions namely: Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service (PPPDS), Water Woks Corporation and Ethiopian Trading Business Corporation (ETBC) were arrested on suspicions of causing damage to public coffers.
In this regard, according to sources, YigezuDaba, director general of PPPDS, and his deputies, TesfayeBirhanu and Solomon Ayiamer as well as MengistuKebede, CEO of ETBC were arrested in connection to a controversial 400,000 metric ton wheat purchase.
In connection to the aforementioned procurement undertaking,Berhanu said,the officials will answer to USD 23 million in damages to the government’s coffers.
In addition, given the lengthy tender process involved in the procurement of wheat, the country has suffered a nationwide wheat shortage.
It is to be recalled that last year, the PPPDS had to re tender an international procurement package to purchase 400,000 metric tons of wheat three times following a failed attempt to procure the wheat.
The government has also arrested 10 current and former officials from Water Works Corporation including its former CEO, AtakiltiTeka.
The officials are suspected of conductingillegal procurement of metals worth 58 million birr.
Moreover, officials from the then Pharmaceutical Fund Supply Agency (PFSA) were also held by the police in suspicion of illegal procurements, favouring a certain supplier and procuring drugs without an open tender as well as violating procurement directives.
In this regard, HaileselassieBihon, former head of PFSA, is among those who wereplaced under custody by the federal police. Haileselassie led the Agency for 10 years and left his post in 2014.
In related news, the Attorney General also told the media that a number of suspects in connection to a foiled terrorist attacks on Addis Ababa are also under custody, who he said has linksto Al-Shabaab.
However, Berhanu failed to disclose the details of the attacks or the identities of the alleged attackers.
Out of the 59 arrested, 21 have appeared before court asking for the government to appoint for them a legal counsel.
Contributed by Dawit Endeshaw and Yonas Abiye