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NewsAddis Chamber to conduct internal investigation following misconduct, fraud allegations

Addis Chamber to conduct internal investigation following misconduct, fraud allegations

  • Mesenbet Shenkute, Shibeshi Bettemariam under the spotlight

The secretariat of the Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Associations (AACCSA) is slated to be the subject of a thorough investigative audit following a decision from the Chamber’s board of directors.

The board recently called for an emergency assembly to vote on the decision for the investigative audit reportedly after learning of misconduct and fraudulent activity among members of the secretariat.

Sources close to the matter told The Reporter a committee was formed immediately following the board’s decision to conduct an investigation.

The misuse of Chamber resources is among the allegations against the heads of the secretariat, according to sources. Unauthorized overseas travel and foreign currency expenditures are coming under the spotlight as part of the investigation.

The secretariat heads are also facing suspicions of forging cooperative agreements with foreign or domestic entities without the prior knowledge or consent of the Chamber’s board; signing unauthorized employment contracts and promotions; as well as huge procurement deals.

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The Secretary-General of AACCSA alone is accused of making or approving 15 “unnecessary” and unauthorized foreign trips since his appointment to the post in late 2022.

The board has received information that has led it to believe that hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on the trips, according to sources.

“There was no budget approved for the purpose of experience sharing or training abroad,” a source told The Reporter. “Foreign travel related expenses go against the Chamber’s financial policies.”

Information forwarded to the board shows that new employment contracts and promotions at the Chamber were not merit based, according to sources. The practice is against the organization’s establishment proclamation as well its human resource policy.

The board called for an investigation after the Chamber’s general manager for audit services was fired by the Secretary-General, sources say. The board feels it has lost control over the employment, promotion, and dismissal of its personnel.

The newly-established committee will conduct the investigation based on the board’s directions.

Fasikaw Sisay is the deputy president of the AACCSA, which has close to 15,000 members. He is among the individuals that brought the problems to the attention of the board.

Fasikaw told The Reporter the problems are serious and could make members of the Chamber secretariat liable for criminal offenses.

Shibeshi Bettemariam, secretary-general, and Mesenbet Shenkute, president, are bearing the brunt of the allegations as the two individuals responsible for coordinating the activities of the secretariat.

The individuals hold the responsibility to inform the board about loopholes and gaps in the Chamber’s operations. However, the board has never been presented with any reports with regards to financial problems, according to sources.

Mesenbet was the sole board member to vote against the motion to establish a committee and conduct an investigation.

Both Mesenbet and Shibeshi spoke to The Reporter about the developments concerning the investigation and committee. They both insinuated the accusations were false, and claimed to have sufficient evidence to prove their innocence.

Mesenbet downplays the issue, rejects the accusations entirely, and claims the matter is receiving more attention than it deserves. . 

Shibeshi maintains the Chamber has been conducting all its tasks legally, and says the new auditor coming will simply do its job. He denies that any of the accusations hold any substance, and argues that all travel to foreign countries was carried out according to the Chamber’s guidelines.

“The expenses presented are exaggerated. The truth will come out when the investigation is completed,” he told The Reporter

Mesenbet holds a similar view on the “exaggerated” amount of foreign currency allegedly spent on travels.

Shibeshi Betemariam, secretary-general, and Mesenbet Shenkute, president, are bearing the brunt of the allegations as the two individuals responsible for coordinating the activities of the secretariat. Mesenbet was the sole board member to vote against the motion to establish a committee and conduct an investigation.

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