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Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s (PhD) response to lawmakers during a parliamentary hearing mid-week where they put questions to him about the performance of the federal government for the just ended fiscal year as usual has stirred controversy. From the security crisis in the Amhara and Oromia regions to macroeconomic challenges, inflation, the implementation of the Pretoria peace accord, the diplomatic standoff with Somalia, and corruption he addressed a range of topics parliamentarians raised. He particularly offered a full-throated defense of his administration’s performance while addressing questions that were critical of it. Of his take on the criticism of the government his denial of the prevalence of government corruption was among those that stood out the most.

True, the PM acknowledged that there are instances where individual government employees or officials engage in corrupt acts. However, his categorical rejection of the notion that the government has redirected funds from the public coffer misses the point. Although the government obviously cannot be expected to concede that it is guilty of promoting political corruption in shape or form, the facts on the ground tell a compellingly different story. In fact, the premiere has admitted on numerous occasions that the government’s ranks are replete with corrupt individuals and vowed to weed them out. In an apparent nod to the imperative to combat corruption at all levels, he established over two years ago a national anti-corruption committee entrusted with coordinating the government’s campaign against corruption, identifying the actors involved in the scourge, and bringing them to justice. This move is sufficiently indicative of the government’s recognition of the danger posed by rampant corruption, be it political or otherwise, in Ethiopia unless it is resolutely tackled. Prime Minister Abiy’s repudiation of the accusation that government corruption has been rife under his watch thus goes against his declared position and in no way helps the battle against corruption.

Corruption is a scourge that has been wreaking havoc on Ethiopian society for quite a while now. Corruption erodes the credibility and legitimacy of government institutions, diminishing public trust in the state as well as the social contract between the government and its citizens. As citizens perceive that public officials are blinded by selfish interest and do not have their welfare at heart, they are discouraged from engaging in civic participation or contribute their share to the democratization process. This lack of trust has been one of the factors that have fueled Ethiopia’s long history of social unrest and political strife. Corruption has also had a devastating impact on Ethiopia’s economic development given it has played a part in distorting market mechanisms, increasing transaction costs, and deterring investment. Moreover, corrupt practices such as embezzlement of public funds and bribery have diverted resources away from essential public services, exacerbating social inequalities, hindering poverty reduction efforts, and impeding sustainable development.

Successive Ethiopian governments have always admitted that corruption is a bane and vowed to combat it resolutely. The various measures they had taken have not yielded the desired outcome though. Consequently, it has spread like bushfire and assumed endemic proportions, exacting little to no costs for the majority of its perpetrators. As such it’s obligatory to mount a vigorous and sustained campaign to effectively combat corruption in Ethiopia. Enhancing transparency in government decision-making processes, public procurement, and financial transactions; building the capacity of anti-corruption institutions and the judiciary; strengthening the legal framework to prosecute and punish corrupt officials; promoting ethical leadership and integrity among public officials; and forging international cooperation and partnerships can go a long way towards this end.

Tackling corruption is essential to promote transparency, accountability, and sustainable growth in Ethiopia. The fight against corruption requires a multi-pronged approach involving coordination among several stakeholders. While there are several factors on which the success of an anti-corruption drive relies, the most critical is a demonstrable commitment on the part of the political leadership to see it through to the end no matter how high its cost is. Downplaying the pervasiveness of all forms of corruption, including government corruption, casts doubt over whether the government is truly intent on combating the malady. Government/political corruption is bound to afflict the nation unless the government owns up to it. After all there is no cure for a malaise which is not properly diagnosed.

#Cure #Misdiagnosed #Malaise

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