Click Here for EthioPolitics NEWS

New! EthioPolitics presents "ARTIST OF THE DAY"
where we feature artists from all over the world who have
contributed significantly to the world of music.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

7.2 Billion Birr Unaccounted for from Ethiopia's Budget

“Unbelievable and embarrassing” says opposition

(By Simegnish Yekoye, the Sub-Saharan Informer)


(Note: The Sub-Saharan Informer is now back online; but it seems that links to articles critical of the government, such as this one, have been permanently removed form the website)

A message from Ethiopian Politics

The Sub-Saharan Informer was an independent newspaper, reporting on news from: Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, Kenya, Somaliland, Ghana, Tanzania and Sudan. In June of 2006, it was shut down by the Ethiopian government for failing to notify the authorities about its change of location.

Journalist Andrew Heavens at the time reported: “Its (The Sub-Saharan Informer’s) staff spent all Thursday night laying out the latest edition. But when they delivered everything to the printers, they hit a brick wall. The printers told the paper they had had a phone call from the Ministry of Information telling them not to start the presses. They said the Ministry told them it had temporarily withdrawn the paper’s license.”

Blogger Urael writing form Addis commented: “now that the Amharic free press is silenced, the internet is blocked; the English language press cannot be left alone….It is clear that nothing and nobody will escape from the total control.”

In its last issue, the Sub-Saharan Informer reported on the astonishing level of corruption plaguing Ethiopia’s EPRDF-led government. Many believe that this and other similar reports, critical of the government, significantly contributed to the revocation of the paper’s license. The departure of the Sub-Saharan informer from the news stands did not Get much attention here in the U.S or Europe from the free press in diaspora. Therefore, in solidarity with the Sub-Saharan Informer, and because of the need to bring attention to the mystery of the missing 7.2 billion birr, we are posting the first article from the paper’s last issue.

“Our liberty depends on the freedom of the press” - Thomas Jefferson


ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - The Ethiopian auditor general’s performance report on the budget of the previous fiscal year and the first nine months of this year indicated that 7.2 billion birr was unaccounted for. The report, presented to the Ethiopian House of People’s Representatives on Tuesday, drew harsh criticisms from opposition leaders.

“This is unbelievable and embarrassing. If it were in other countries the officials (criminals) involved in this would have lost their jobs,” said Temesgen Zewde, a representative of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUDP).

Unbelievable as it may seem, this lack of accountability is not without precedent in Ethiopia.In 2003 (1995 Eth. calendar), 4.8 billion birr allocated to regional states was taken as being completely spent without any knowledge of where the money had gone.In response to the report the Ministry of Economy and Finance said to the auditor general that it is not its responsibility to check where the money goes and what it was spent on. Their duties only entail registering the budget as an outflow.“Living in poverty and getting the money through taxes, loans and donations, it is amazing that the ministry says that it isn’t its responsibility to follow up on where the money goes,” Temesgen added.

The report’s findings presented to the parliament showed that a shortfall of 82.2 million birr was accounted for in 27 federal and 18 regional offices.15 federal and 25 regional revenue offices were also cited for not collecting a total of 1.3 million birr in taxes from last year ‘s budget, excluding the Federal Inland Revenue and customs offices.

“We feel there is a danger in the country when 7.2 billion birr is lost from our budget through mismanagement…without any proof of where the money has gone,” opposition Ethiopian Union Democratic Party (EUDP)/Medhin representative Abdurahman Ahmed said after listening to the report. In the presentation of the report, auditor general Lema Aregaw said that a total of 13.1 million birr was found registered as expenditures in seven federal and 22 regional offices without any explanations attached. “Out of the specified [13.1 million], 4.2 million birr is from the ministry of defense, 2.8 million from the 103rd Ethiopian army corps, 2.9 million from the Somalia militia bureau and 1.9 million from the Somali education bureau,” Lema said.

Misappropriated funds and flawed documentation were also noted in the auditor general’s report. In reply, minister of tourism and culture and ruling party MP Mohammed Drire said that the report presented was not meant to make parliamentarians feel depressed or cry over what had happened, but to study the problem areas and find ways for parliament to maintain checks and balances on the executive bodies and make them accountable to the rule of law. “This doesn’t mean changing the place to a kangaroo court,” Drire said. “Because according to our constitution, a person is called a criminal only when the court passes a verdict on it.”