The proclamation regulating compensation in land expropriated for right of way – to build public projects like roads – is now undergoing changes aimed at addressing issues surrounding compensation practices, according to officials.
Federal authorities have accused regional officials of inflating payouts for land expropriated for road construction that displaces households from their farmland.
The planned revisions to the legal framework for compensating dispossessed households, mostly farmers, comes as the issue of expropriated land and fair compensation emerged as a key debate in Parliament this week.
Officials at the Ethiopian Roads Administration say the government is revising its land expropriation law to tackle compensation issues raised in Parliament.
During a parliamentary debate last week, Finance Minister Ahmed Shide said compensation costs for dispossessed land sometimes exceed the budget for entire road projects, causing payment delays and project stalls.
The minister told MPs right of way compensation has caused trouble to the federal government.
Last month, the Roads Administration officials said around 4.4 billion birr in disputed land compensation payments had been made.
The Administration considers many of these payments for farmland expropriated for new roads to be “unfair.”
“There has been some progress amending the proclamation to address the issue,” Dereje Ayele, Right-of-Way Management Director at the Administration, told The Reporter.
He refrained from specifying the changes to the law governing land expropriation and compensation payments, but hinted that regional governments would assume more responsibility for right-of-way acquisition for road projects.
Despite the revisions, lawmakers questioned whether the administration has sufficient resources and pointed to failed compensation payments to farmers whose farmland was seized for new highways.
“With regard to right-of-way and compensation for it, a known fact is that fraudulent compensation claims begin as soon as a road project is approved and its routes made public,” Ahmed told lawmakers. “Some farmers may even collaborate on inflated claims.”
According to Ahmed, it was after this development that the government investigated and decided to delay compensation payments, prompting lawmakers’ questions.
The new plan involves giving lower-level regional administrations more responsibility for right-of-way acquisition, Ahmed said.
“Regional, zonal and woreda administrations also need to take responsibility,” he said.
The government hopes this will address inflated compensation claims that have stalled some projects.
“Compensation costs for regional administered road projects tend to be lower while costs are higher for federal administered projects,” Ahmed said.
Dereje of the Roads Administration has also voiced concern about different compensation rates for federal and regional road projects.
“Regional administrations apply lower rates than the federal government so compensation payments do not affect their projects as much,” he said.