The telecommunications sector in Ethiopia is one of the most prone to corruption, according to a much-anticipated World Bank report which shines light on the role of state-run operator Ethio-Telecom.
According to the “Diagnosing Corruption in Ethiopia” report, which analysed eight important industry sectors, the corruption within the sector is mainly due to the lack of accountability in the field and the monopoly currently operated by Ethio-Telecom.
It advises that the country begin auditing telecommunications transactions in connection with Ethio-Telecom.
Particular light was shone upon a 2006 vendor financing contract entered into by the operator, then known as the Ethiopian Telecommunications Corporation (ETC), which saw the lack of an official tender procedure for the grant of the US$1.5 billion financing contract and the company’s failure to provide potential suppliers with the financial requirements related to the contract. Suggestions are rife that only the winning supplier, China’s ZTE, was provided with the relevant information.
“This brief study should not be seen as an investigation or interpreted as alleging in itself that corruption has necessarily occurred. However, the circumstances as perceived both by stakeholders and by independent observers do raise serious questions about the control of risks in this sector,” reads the report.
“By appointing one supplier without competitive tender, the ETC has no opportunity to assess the degree of technical compliance of the supplier’s equipment. The contract was also inappropriate and went through unclear procedures for ensuring technical quality and competitive pricing.”
The World Bank suggests that all large agreements entered into by Ethio-Telecom should be vetted in accordance with the country’s Public Procurement Proclamation.
Furthermore, the report also makes note of charges laid against the ex-ETC CEO and 26 former executives by the Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC) involving the procurement of low-quality equipment contrary to official regulations.
Abdurahim Ahmed, public relations officer to Ethio-Telecom, was reported by the Addis Tribune as saying: “Monopoly by itself cannot be the mere cause of corruption… The study came out two years after it was completed, there will be many changes in the industry since then.”
Though some of the report’s findings have been taken to heart by the authorities.
“Some of the recommendations of the report are under implementation,” said Ali Suleman, Commissioner for the FEACC.