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Azeb Asnake (Eng.)

Ethiopian power EX-CEO faces corruption charges

Former METEC deputy, et al to answer to unaccounted for 1.9 BLN birr

The former CEO of Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP), Azeb Asnake (Eng.), became the latest high-ranking official to be implicated in the high-profile corruption case involving the USD 6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), it was learnt. Azeb, together with two other former EEP officials, alongside Mulu Woldegebiel (Col.), former deputy director of Metals and Engineering Corporation (METEC), a number of other METEC officials and business people, are to face corruption charges specifically in connection to forest and biomass clearing work conducted on the dam site.          

The charges read out in court on Friday afternoon included some 50 defendants including Azeb and her colleagues from EEP, Mulu and former high-ranking METEC officials and private business people. The charges, which listed Azeb as the second defendant, carries some serious charges and allegations on the first defendant Mulu Woldegebreil (Col.) and from 5th defendants through to the 12th.

Therefore, the charge sheet obtained by The Reporter accused the 1st defendant and defendants from 5 to 12 for unlawfully and dishonestly receiving payment for forest and biomass clearing work on a 123,189 hectares of land, to make way for the GERD reservoir, to the tune of 2.5 billion birr, amounting to half of the overall cost of the project (5 billion birr), while the actual work completed was 31 percent.

Apart from that, the charge alleges that out of 2.5 billion received from EEP, while some 595 million birr was paid to 87 independent subcontractors conducting the actual site work, the balance, which is around 1.9 billion birr remains largely unaccounted for. The charge details, based on an audit report conducted on METEC’s financial books, alleges that there is no financial accountability regarding the 1.9 billion birr retained by METEC after paying companies which have completed the 31 percent clearing work on the mentioned site.

Furthermore, the charge also lists misgivings in connection to 595 million birr paid out to companies and the lack of transparent mechanisms which were employed to select the private contractors. It also noted a glaring lack of open bid processes to select the companies involving in the clearing process.

On the other hand, METEC officials were also charged with the unlawful release of the retention money, the companies had with METEC, to guarantee the completion of the project they are awarded, amounting to 4 million birr.

Nevertheless, The Reporter failed to obtain the details of the counts that Azeb and her EEP colleagues face.

It is to be remembered that back in August 2019, the Board of Directors of the Ethiopian Electric Power (EEP) sacked Azeb, who has been in office for five years and appointed Abreham Belay as CEO of the State-owned power company.

At the time, the Board also took an extraordinary decision not only to sack Azeb, but the entire management team at the Power Company for reasons that were not clearly disclosed.

Azeb took the EEP post in 2013 replacing Mihret Debebe, the longest serving CEO of the power corporation in recent times. Before her appointment as a CEO, Azeb led the high-profile power project — the 1,800MW Gilgel Gibe III hydroelectric power project.