Audit reveals senior officials misappropriate public funds

Ethiopian government audit uncovers procurement with up to six times higher prices

Ethiopia _ Audit

By Bernabas Shiferaw
May 18, 2020

The Ministry of Finance has announced that audit reports from 58 government offices show that many government offices have made purchases at highly exaggerated prices, with  the highest price registered for an item reaching up to six times the least price registered for the same item. 

The director of the Inspection Directorate at the Ministry, Mr. Fekadu Agonafer told the Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) that the purchases consist of laptop computers and mobile phones. The Council of Ministers had passed a guideline for the purchase of these items for higher government officials in August 2019. Accordingly, in September, the agency in charge of government purchases sent a detailed guideline specifying the items to be purchased and how they are to be purchased to government agencies.

Then, in January, the Ministry of Finance sent a request for a special audit report concerning the purchase of these items. Out of the 158 agencies that received this request, only 58 submitted the report by the end of April. Out of these, 16 of them reported that they have not made any purchases. 

From the remaining 42 agencies, which did make purchases, many had not followed the guidelines sent to them. Some had bought items other than those specified in the guideline. Although the guideline states that the items must be bought through open bids, many had made the purchases by just collecting prices from a few suppliers. Some government officials refused to return their old computers and phones after having received the new ones. 

Among these government agencies, the Ethiopian National Educational Assessment and Examination Agency (NEAEA) made the most expensive purchases, buying two laptops for Birr 152,000 (USD 4,505) each and two mobile phones for Birr 94,000 (USD 2,790) each. 

And the Higher Education Relevance and Quality Agency (HERQA) bought three laptop computers for the price of  Birr 125,499 (approximately USD 3,720) each and three mobile phones for Birr 53,600 (USD 1,590) each, for the director and the two deputy directors. 

The least prices registered were Birr 20,000 (USD 600) for a laptop and Birr 12,000 (USD 360) for a mobile phone. The total amount spent on the items by the 42 agencies added up to Birr 10 million (USD 299,000). 

Mr. Fekadu said that the inspection Directorate has suggested that the government should press charges against the officials who violated the guideline in making these purchases and that they also should be made to return the difference between the purchase price and the market price of the items. 

Moreover, the Inspection Directorate has suggested that ceiling prices should be determined to avoid such misappropriations of public funds. 

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