Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Walk the walk!

The track record of successive Ethiopian governments on delivering the pledges they make to the public has been nothing to write home about. While the raft of challenges that have perennially confronted Ethiopia understandably made it impossible to accomplish everything they set out to, it is par for the course for them to hype up their “achievements” but play down or rationalize their failures. They are also adept at placating public resentment by acknowledging the prevalence of bad governance, corruption and all manners of injustices without actually doing something tangible to address them. The present government is no exception. Unless it learns from the mistakes of its predecessors and suit its word to action, the credibility gap it’s suffering from will only worsen.

The unprecedented and frankly speaking mind-boggling scandal over the latest lottery drawing undertaken by the Addis Ababa City Government (AACG) for the transfer of condominium houses is illustrative of the adage that old habits die hard. The entire affair has particularly left citizens who have been saving up from their meager income to be eligible for the housing program angry and frustrated. Prior to the July 8 drawing AACG proudly declared that the lottery management system software used in the draw was developed in a manner which ensured that the draw was reliable, transparent and fair in a bid to avert a repeat of the illegality that had marred previous rounds. It added the relevant federal government agencies and private sector companies had signed off on the integrity of the software. Just three days after the draw, though, the City Government announced that an audit it conducted into the draw following tips it received showed several irregularities, including the awarding of condominium houses to ineligible individuals, adding officials and IT experts suspected of being complicit in the fiasco had been arrested.

After further investigation involving several state security and technology organs —which confirmed the outcome of the initial audit— the results of the lottery draw were annulled. The probe revealed that although 79,794 eligible individuals who saved the required minimum down payment for condo units built under 20/80 and 40/60 housing development programs were eligible for the lottery draw, an additional 93,000 ineligible individuals illegally entered the draw. It also found that the system was not vetted by the Information Network Security Service, vulnerable to tampering by anyone and was being accessed through the internet during its use in the drawing process. The sheer audacity of the crimes committed by the persons behind the debacle underscore that there are several lessons which can and ought to be learnt.

First, the AACG should be commended for taking prompt corrective measures. This said a scandal the likes of which Ethiopia has rarely seen before cannot be swept under the carpet by issuing apologies. Its very occurrence is sufficient proof of a systemic failure besetting the entire city administration. In fact corruption, abuse of power and maladministration has always been at the top of the litany of complaints the residents of Addis Ababa have been making for decades.  While holding the individuals directly implicated in the scandal is a step in the right direction, it is high time that the leadership of the city government is subjected to a brutal evaluation exercise with a view to ensure that no matter what they position they hold everyone is held accountable for failure in their duties.

In a message she posted on her Twitter page regarding the fiasco over the lottery drawing for condominium houses Addis Ababa Mayor Adanech Abiebie said the city administration is committed to overcoming criminals and anyone breaching the trust placed in them and that the truth shall always win. Such vow, however, rings hollow given the pledges made in the past have seldom been translated into action. Administering a large metropolis like Addis Ababa requires a skilled leadership, integrity, wisdom, diligence, experience and above all the active participation of residents of the city in matters affecting their livelihood. Absent these requisite factors the city government is bound to be found wanting in delivering on its promise. This risks running the ire of the people it governs. Therefore, for its own sake and most importantly for the sake of fulfilling the needs of citizens who voted it into office, it’s incumbent on it to walk the walk.

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