In a bid to stamp out corruption and ensure accountability, a new Ethiopian legislation in its final phase will require senior government officials to have their entire assets, as well as those of their close family members, registered by a federal ethics and anti-corruption commission.
The disclosure and registration of assets proclamation bill, referred to the parliamentary standing committee and expected to be approved in three weeks time, will see top officials who fail to have the required assets registered slapped with criminal charges, prison terms and fines.
The president, prime minister, ministers, state ministers, deputy ministers, commissioners, governors of the central bank and other top executive officials, will not be exempted from the exercise.
Elected persons such as Members of Parliament (MPs), House of Federation members and top public servants who run public enterprises will also be
expected to declare their assets as per the legislation.
The bill has received a particularly strong support from the opposition in parliament.
To further extend the list, opposition party, Ethiopian Democratic Party, has proposed the inclusion of party leaders, while some MPs want what they call “party endowments and businesses” to be looked at.
Only household goods and personal effects of the concerned officials are exempted from the registration that should take place within 180 days from the effective date of the pending proclamation.
Though the bill has received extensive support, various opposition groups say the bill is too soft to stop the spread of corruption in the country.
“We had proposed a more fitting stiff legislation three years back but only to be rejected,” opposition MP Bulcha Demeksa accused the ruling party of proposing the bill half-heartedly.
The ruling party officials however say the only reason Bulcha’s proposal was turned back was because it didn’t have an outlook of a bill which could have been revised and resubmitted.
The opposition further accuses the government of taking too long to present the bill, compared to the bill that approved various retirement benefits for senior government officials.
Among articles welcomed by all sides is article 20/4 which, in order to encourage public support of effective implementation of the proclamation, promises whistleblowers 25% of assets they help seize from officials.
Conversely, article 22 which says that any person who maliciously submits unfounded whistle-blowing pursuant to article 20 shall be punished with imprisonment up to three years and fines or both, has been questioned by opposition MP Temesgen Zewide.
“We need to encourage people to provide as much tips as possible, which should of course be subjected to relevant scrutiny by the commission responsible for the job.
“If we give the impression that one has to be sure of what one is referring to and that there would be consequences if he or she is not, then it discourages public participation which is vital if we want this to work.
“Therefore I do not see a need for the stipulation and call for its removal,” Temesgen said.
Public hearings and further discussions are expected to be called by the Legal and Administration Affairs Standing Committee which now has the bill after it was voted in by the general session.