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The Rationale and Objectives of Conducting the Survey

The primary objective of this national level corruption perception survey is to determine the perceived levels of corruption in Ethiopia, and promote public debates and drive demand for change on corruption. The specific objectives of the study are to:

  1. Identify the trend and status of corruption after the second survey in 2012;
  2. Review and determine comprehensiveness and effectiveness of existing ethics, integrity, and corruption prevention policies, strategies, mechanisms, and systems;
  3. Identify and determine the forms and causes of corruption that are most prevalent;
  4. Identify sectors and institutions most affected by and prone to corruption and examine the extent, level, type and nature of corruption;
  5. Conduct a comparative analysis of the survey result with the previous (2012) corruption perception survey; and
  6. Propose interventions/strategies to enhance ethics, integrity, and effectively combat corruption in Ethiopia, building on international best practices.

Methods of the Study

To address the objectives of the study, a combination of methods were used. These ranged from a systematic review of policies and strategies developed by the Ethiopian government with the aim of fighting corruption to a collection of data for empirical analysis to measure peoples’ perception about corruption and their experiences. The sample size allocated to each region and the socio-economic sectors is provided in Table 1. All regions are included, except Tigray due to security reasons.

Table 1: Sample distribution of respondents by regions/city administrations and sample strata

Source: Survey analysis (2021)

As could be observed from Table 1, a very large study (with 6,627 respondents) was conducted where 54% of the participants were from urban areas, and 69% were males. A  Pretest was done on 63 respondents and a Pilot test was done on 382 participants before conducting the main study with the refined tools and procedures.

Highlights of the Findings by Socio-economic Sector

A. Households’ Perceptions

The findings show that majority (84.6%) of the households perceive that there exists corruption in public institutions, followed by private institutions (51.5%) and CSOs/NGOs (38.9%). Some institutions indicated by the respondents include land management, Woreda Municipality office, Transport Bureau, law enforcement, Woreda Court, etc.

The participants of the study endorsed the acts and practices listed in the Corruption Crimes Proclamation 881/2015 as forms of corruption (see Figure 1). Bribery, acceptance of undue advantages and abuse of power or responsibility are the common forms of corruption that often prevailed. This shows that thoughtful follow-up should be done if such types of acts are started to be observed in any of the institutions that provide service to the public, and if they are started to be observed, an immediate measure should be taken before such corrupt practices is widely spread among the public.

Figure 1: Assessments of respondents’ understanding of corrupt acts

The majority perceive public sectors as the most affected institutions by corruption, followed by private enterprises and CSOs/NGOs. The government in collaboration with other stakeholders should have a closer look into every institution and enforce the preservation of transparency and accountability in every operation of their duties.

 

The major reason given for offering inducements is that there is no other way to obtain a service. In contrast, some respondents indicated the moral unacceptability and risks of punishment as reasons for not giving gratuity. Most respondents perceive that today corruption in Ethiopia is at lower level than it was about five years back, yet the majority view corruption as a serious problem in the country today. Particularly, grand corruption in Ethiopia shows a decreasing trend whereas mild and petty corruptions show nether increasing nor decreasing trend. At present, greed and desire to get more, ambition to get rich quickly and being devoid of ethics or moral values are the major causes of corruption in the Ethiopian context. With regard to the quality of services of different institutions, respondents rated the services provided by Transport Bureau, Ethiopian Electric Utility Office and Urban Development, Housing & Construction Bureau as very poor. Overall, the participants consider women to be less exposed to corruption compared with their male counterparts, and they generally believe that appointing women in areas vulnerable to corruption would help as a therapy to combat corruption in Ethiopia in general and in their respective areas in particular.

 

B. Public Institutions

Complaints handling, perception of corruption, presence and tolerance of corruption, trend and status of corruption, and perceived causes of corruption were some of the main issues assessed with regard to public institutions. Most of the results obtained from public institutions were similar with those of households. However, undue delay of matters, maladministration in governance of public enterprise work, and maladministration in governance of public enterprise works were the most common forms of corruption reported as prevailing in public institutions.

Customers who were satisfied with the manner in which their complaints regarding the quality of services were handled were lower in number than for those who were dissatisfied – probably an indication that service providers under study were not doing a good job in handling complaints. For institutions under the judicial branch of government, the quality of the services provided was favourably rated for Federal Supreme and High courts, Regional Supreme Courts and Woreda First Instance Courts. However, the quality of services rendered at City Dwellers Court was rated poor or very poor. On the other hand, the quality of services rendered by Parliamentary Committees was rated as average. Regarding the integrity of institutions under the legislative branch of government, most respondents perceive that these institutions are honest. An exception was the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority where none of the respondents forwarded favourable rating.

 

C. Private/Business Institutions

Most respondents think that neither other people nor themselves report corrupt practices whenever they experience them. The majority of respondents perceive that people never report corruption, and a significant portion of respondents believe that they themselves would never report even if they witness a corrupt act by any person today or in the future.

Undue delay of matters/actions, maladministration of government work and abuse of power, in order of importance, are the common forms of corruption that prevail in business enterprises. Greed and desire to get more were cited as the leading causes of corruption in Ethiopia. This is followed by ambition to get rich quickly and having no ethics or moral, in their respective order. On the other hand, respondents perceive poor economic policies as the least cause of corruption. Ethiopian Investment Commission, from the executive arm, and Federal Supreme Court, from the judiciary arm, were mentioned as institutions that render good quality services and labeled as honest institutions by respondents. Private entities perceive that professional associations, Prime Minister’s Office, and religious institutions contribute more in the fight against corruption in the country. On the other hand, awareness creation campaigns, registration of assets, and the establishment of federal and regional EACC initiatives were mentioned as the most effective measures in combating corruption in Ethiopia.

 

D. Civil Society or Non-Governmental Organizations

NGOs perceived that bribery, abuse of power or responsibility and misappropriation in the discharge of duties were among the major forms of corruptions in the country. The presence of corruption in various organization was also reported with the highest prevalence in public institutions. Greed and desire to get more and ambition to get rich quickly are mentioned as the main causes of corruption. Corruption and failure to expose corrupt acts also prevailed in NGOs/CSOs of the country though it was not considered as a major challenge.

In regard to service delivery, private banks took the leading position in the quality of service whereas Ethiopian Electric Utility was rated as an organization with very poor/poor service delivery.  In spite of the need to report corruptions, people did not do so mainly because of fear of retaliation. In combatting corruption, mass media (newspapers and TV), Regional Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission, Civic Society organizations and Non-Governmental Organizations were considered as key players. The Sharia court is a system appreciated by respondents as a fair institution in its service delivery whereas first instance woreda courts were rated as an unfair system for most of the time. Appointing women in areas vulnerable to corruption was also considered as a remedy to combat corruption in the country.

 

E. Professional Associations

All respondents have a good understanding of the various forms of corruption. Bribery, acceptance of undue advantage and appropriation and misappropriation in the discharge of duties, as well as lack of law enforcement were reported as the common forms of corruption prevailing in Ethiopia. Most respondents’ think that the government’s will and desire in fighting corruption is higher compared to the situation five years back. Unlike other categories of respondents’, corruption in professional institutions is ranked as the third major problem that Ethiopians are facing, next to unemployment, high cost of living, and inflation.

Results reveal that regional level government is the most corruption susceptible government structure in Ethiopia. On the other hand, confiscation/restoration of money/asset gained through corruption is seen as a very effective penalty in curbing corruption in Ethiopia whereas transfer to other institutions or departments is rated as the most ineffective mechanism to curb corruption in the country. Women are less predisposed to corrupt practices; thus, appointing them in areas vulnerable to corruption helps to reduce corruption in professional associations in the country.

 

F. Religious Institutions

According to these institutions, abuse of power or responsibility and bribery are among the top forms of corruption observed in Ethiopia. On the other hand, more survey participants did not confirm the presence of corruption committed by arbitrators and other persons. To them, corruption has shown a decreasing trend today in the country as compared with its level about five years ago; yet it remains as a serious problem in the country today.

In the views of religious leaders, ambition to become rich quickly, greed and desire to get more and no ethics or moral values are the main causes of corruption in Ethiopia. The services provided by Urban Development, Housing & Construction Bureau, Land Administration and Federal Police Commission are labeled as poor. There is a poor habit of reporting and exposing corruption in Ethiopia. According to views of respondents in these institutions, overall, women are less exposed to corruption compared to their male counterparts, and hence appointing women in areas vulnerable to corruption would help as a remedy to combat corruption in Ethiopia in general and in their respective areas in particular.

 

G. Media Institutions

Abuse of power, bribery, acceptance of undue advantages, etc. listed in the Corruption Crimes Proclamation 881/2015 are endorsed by media respondents as forms of corruption. Non-existence of ethics or moral, ambition to get rich quickly, and greed and desire to get more are listed as the main causes for corruption. The level of corruption is perceived to be higher than it was five years ago in the media sector. The media institutions have emphasized that corruption is a serious, if not a very serious, problem in Ethiopia.

Assigning anti-corruption officers and awareness creation /training campaigns were recommended by the media participants as effective ways of fighting corruption in Ethiopia. Legal aid and council, strengthened whistleblowers’ protection, and protection of media personnel were also indicated as valuable resources and support for them in the fight against corruption.

 

Comparative Analysis and Conclusions

Overall conclusions and comparison points (with the 2012 study findings) are presented in the following paragraphs.

  • The current (2021) survey put corruption in the public sector as the third major challenge facing the country today across all categories of respondents, while the same was ranked seventh in the second survey. The implication is that corruption in the public sector is perceived to be of great concern in the current survey than in the second survey period, i.e. 2012.
  • Among lower levels of public organizations, the percentage of households who rated the quality of services provided by Zonal and Woreda Councils/Administrative offices favourably has considerably declined in the current survey (Kebele Councils showed a slight increase, however.). Since these are institutions with which members of the public are likely to interact at some point in search of services, such deterioration in the quality of service provision is worrisome.
  • The percentage of private business respondents who rated the quality of service provision for selected public institutions favourably (good or very good) had declined in the current survey, in general terms. This was more so for Ethiopian Postal Service Enterprise, Water & Sewerage Service Authority/Bureaus, and Development Bank of Ethiopia.
  • The two most suggested effective measures for improving organizational performance in both surveys were improved salaries (remuneration) and recruitment of better trained & competent staff. The priority levels show marked differences with respect to better capacity to detect & punish corruption. While the second survey ranked this as the fourth effective measure, the current survey puts it as one of the least effective measures. This translates into the fact that civil servants in the current survey did not consider corruption as serious impediment to organizational performance as did surveyed respondents in the second survey.
  • The percentage of civil servants who reported that their organizations had clearly defined complaints handling and redressing mechanisms for customers who express their grievances has declined by about 20% in the current survey. This finding deserves due attention since such mechanisms significantly enhance operational efficiency in a variety of ways, including deterring fraud and corruption and providing public organizations with practical suggestions (feedback) that allow them to be more accountable, transparent, and responsive to service users.
  • In general, the percentage of favourable responses with respect to fairness of the judicial system for respondents (or family member, work colleagues, etc.) who had some experiences in the use of the system has substantially declined between the two surveys across all category of respondents. Such a decline in public trust is worrisome as unfair judicial system is a serious impediment to the success of any anti-corruption efforts.
  • Private business respondents cited unavailability and price of inputs, challenges related to taxes and regulations, and corruption in the public sector as major obstacles to their operations in the second survey (in order of appearance). The current survey puts corruption in the public sector as the leading obstacle, followed by lack of infrastructure and insufficient and unstable market demand. Thus, respondents in both surveys shared the same concern with respect to corruption in the public sector as a critical obstacle for doing business. Moreover, a 25% increase in the percentage of respondents who felt that lack of peace, security and political stability has become a major obstacle shows the dire situation with respect to this issue.
  • About 42% of respondents from private business organizations agreed that government contracts were usually awarded in a clear and transparent manner in the second survey. This figure dropped down to 17% in the current survey. This might probably indicate increased levels on lack of transparency, favouritism, bribery and corruption in the awarding of government contracts.
  • The proportion of respondents who rated the complexity of government procurement procedures and the requirement to pay gratification to public officials as major obstacles in government procurement has decreased by more than 10 percentage points in the current survey. Furthermore, the highest percentage of respondents in the current survey categorized these two as minor obstacles. These are impressive improvements and deserve appreciations.
  • Business enterprises and civil servants gave more favourable responses with respect to the integrity of public institutions and state-owned utility & service firms in the current survey as compared with that in the second survey. An exception is Ethiopian Electric Power Corporation, which was rated as honest/very honest by a higher percentage of business respondents in the second survey than in the current survey. The institutions that were classified as least honest in both surveys were those related to land and housing (Land Administration, Agency for the Administration of Government Houses and Housing Development Agency).
  • Among the objectionable factors in determining how individual staffs get hired or promoted in public institutions, relationship with supervisors was considered as an important criterion by 36.1% of respondents in the second survey. This figure has declined to 24.3% in the current survey. However, the importance attached to provision of kickbacks to get preferential treatment was relatively higher in the current survey.
  • The percentage of employees of public organizations who were dissatisfied with their salary and job prospects for promotion were 20.7% and 18.2% higher in the current survey as compared with the second survey, respectively. Policy makers need to give due attention to these concerns since failure to meet personal and family needs from official salaries and benefits are probably strong motivating factors for engaging in acts of corruption.
  • The proportion of civil servants who claimed that elected officials, their appointees, or political party officials have never influenced hiring or promotion decisions in their organization in the past five years has increased by more than 20% in the current survey. Moreover, there was a five percentage point decrease for those who disclosed that they had witnessed such incidents. This probably is an indication that such interferences are in the decline. However, more than 45% of those who had witnessed such interferences reported that the incident was complained in the current survey. The corresponding figure was 37% in the second survey. Thus, even though such incidences were relatively lower in the current survey, the likelihood of adherence to undue influences remains higher.
  • The percentages of household respondents, civil servants and representatives of CSOs/NGOs & professional associations who disclosed that they had reported acts of corruption they had witnessed have all declined in the current survey. The implication is that, despite being witness to corrupt acts, there was an increased reluctance to report them to the relevant authorities in the current survey. The two most frequently cited reasons by both sample groups and across the two surveys as to why they refrained from reporting corrupt acts were fear of potential harassment and reprisals and the belief that no action would be taken even if the incidents were reported/proved. Lack of knowledge as to where to report acts of corruption, which had the least rank in the second survey, emerged as the third crucial factor by household respondents in the current survey. Thus, responsible parties need to do a lot in this aspect in order to get the support of the general public in the fight against corruption.
  • In the assessment of whether various institutions have been playing their full part in combating corruption, none of the entities under study received favourable responses by majority of respondents across all categories of respondents in both surveys. Moreover, the percentages of favourable ratings given to religious institutions, mass media and Federal Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission have all considerably declined between the two surveys (for household respondents). In contrast, the media was favourably rated by a majority of respondents from each sample group in the second survey.

 

Strategic Interventions as a Way of Recommendations

Interventions and strategies that are believed to reduce corruption are forwarded below.

  1. Establishment and/or strengthening of effective complaint handling mechanisms in all government and NGOs is a key tool to identify and prevent corruption and other malpractice. Providing citizens with mechanisms and channels to report any incidence or suspicion of corruption or other malpractice, would allow for the identification of problems, which might otherwise not surface, and for subsequent corrective actions to be taken.
  2. The percentage of favourable responses with respect to fairness of the judicial system for respondents who had some experiences in the use of the system has substantially declined between the two surveys across all categories of respondents. Such decline in public trust/confidence is worrisome since unfair judicial system is a serious impediment to the success of any anti-corruption Moreover, given that the majority of household respondents feel that application of the law did favour the rich and powerful in both surveys, the Ethiopian Government and the relevant offices are expected to address this problem.
  3. Among lower levels of government, the percentage of households who rated the quality of services provided by Zonal and Woreda Councils/Administrative offices favourably has considerably declined in the current survey. Decentralization clearly creates more opportunities for local autonomy and responsiveness to more specialized constituencies. It empowers lower tiers of government to concentrate on tailoring the specific mechanisms of service delivery and public expenditure packages to fit local needs and circumstances. One does not decentralize the civil service as an end by itself – one does so in order to provide services better, manage resources more efficiently, or support other general outcome goals. However, there is more room for failure if specific steps are not taken to build local technical and managerial capacity. Lower tiers of government will be effective only when they have access to the necessary human and financial resources to undertake the services they have been entrusted with. Thus, there is a dire need for assessing, improving, and accommodating varying degrees of local capacity so that such local governments will be in a position to plan, finance and manage their responsibilities. Otherwise, ‘lack of capacity’ excuses may hamper sound utilization of public resources and nurture corruption.
  4. The percentage of respondents from private business organizations who reported that government contracts were usually awarded in a clear and transparent manner has dropped down by a staggering 25% in the current survey. Moreover, the percentage of civil servants who disclosed that enterprises always/sometimes paid kickbacks in order to win contracts with their organizations has considerably increased in the current survey. These findings might probably point to increased lack of transparency, favouritism, bribery and corruption in the awarding of government contracts. One of the most important effects that transparency can have on a procurement system is that it ensures that procurement decisions are based on legitimate criteria. In other words, transparency reduces the possibility of corruption. Transparency also improves the amount and level of competition that occurs. A transparent system encourages participation by suppliers who otherwise would not be aware of the possible contract solicitation for bids. In the absence of transparency, the market is only open to those suppliers that have connections or agreements with public officials or the government. Thus, there should be clear and objective requirements in awarding government contracts. These requirements may include (but not limited to): creating a system with clear procedures and award criteria; notifying the transparency requirements to all parties; recording procurement proceedings; disclosing information to interested parties including the publication of the award, the name and address of the bidders, and the amount of the bid; ensuring that there is no discrimination against bidders of any kind; and mandating a formal system for challenging bids.
  5. The percentages of respondents across all categories who disclosed that they had reported acts of corruption they had witnessed have all declined in the current survey. The implication is that, despite being witness to corrupt acts, there was an increased reluctance to report them to the relevant authorities in the current survey. The most frequently cited reason for refraining from reporting corrupt acts was fear of potential harassment & reprisals. Lack of knowledge as to where to report acts of corruption (lack of awareness of available reporting mechanisms) also emerged as the third crucial factor for this reluctance by household respondents in the current survey. While not all those who report acts of corruption will suffer for doing so, respondents felt that all too often individuals do face serious reprisals and victimization. This can have a severe impact on their lives and livelihoods and extend to family, friends and colleagues. When this occurs, it has a chilling effect on others who might otherwise have considered reporting, and make them decide it is not worth the risk. Concerned parties must therefore consider carefully what measures can be implemented in law and practice that will allow members of the public and those working within public services to speak up safely. Ensuring that reporting persons and those close to them are protected from harassment and other threats to their well-being is also important. Moreover, policy makers need to assess what already exists and identify any weaknesses or gaps in the national systems. The law should enable authorities to use preventive protective measures, such as the granting of confidentiality to prevent reprisals from occurring in the first place. In addition, it should provide enforceable remedies to those who are victimized or suffer from reprisal, for instance, if the preventive measures have failed. A comprehensive review of existing reporting mechanisms will also help determine the ways in which they can be improved. Finally, the importance of corruption reporting by the media as well as the impact of new technologies on the ways and means people can employ to communicate information about corruption need to be taken into account.
  6. Representatives of private business enterprises in both surveys shared the same concern with respect to corruption in the public sector as a critical obstacle to doing business (the current survey puts corruption in the public sector as the leading obstacle).The issue of corruption as a hindrance to the development of the business sector is well documented. Despite various initiatives that have been put in place to combat political and administrative corruption, corruption still stands as an obstacle for doing business. For instance, inducements are required to enter the market, to ensure compliance with regulations, to cope with the excessive bureaucracy, or to get political protection. Instead of doing the core business and focusing on innovation and development, firms have often been forced to allocate significant human, financial and time resources to handle corrupt pressures in a corrupt business environment. Thus, policy measures to curbing corruption as an obstacle for doing business should be focused on raising the public anti-corruption awareness; developing and implementing a system of personal and institutional responsibility for public officials/civil servants directly dealing with private business enterprises; and promoting transparency & openness (in public procurement procedures, license issuing process, etc.) in public services. Moreover, measures to reduce the margin of discretion of public officials in the process of issuing permits and licenses, public procurement procedures, etc. might prove effective. In addition to individual or private anti-corruption initiatives, the government has to prove its commitment in combating corruption. Business enterprises and public employees should also be encouraged to report incidences of corruption.
  7. Among the objectionable factors in determining how individual staffs get hired or promoted in public institutions, relationship with supervisors and provision of gratifications were considered as important criterion by a good percentage of civil servants in both surveys. In particular, the importance attached to provision of inducements to receive preferential treatment was relatively higher in the current survey. Weak human resources (HR) processes often result in oversized and under-qualified civil services, with distorted incentive structures and poor work ethics that ultimately undermine the goal of building a strong, efficient and accountable public sector. Corruption can affect all aspects of HR management processes, with favouritism, nepotism and abuse of authority in areas of recruitment, training, promotion, compensation and transfer as major risk areas. These often surface as a result of unchecked discretionary power, lack of integrity, accountability, checks and balances, and transparency in the overall administration of HR services. Thus, merit-based recruitment and promotion policies; tenure of employment to protect the independence of public servants from undue political influence; transparent pay packages & internal controls; and integrity management systems, including the implementation of codes of ethics, ethics training, and whistle-blowing mechanisms, should be promoted in order to prevent corrupt practices in HR management.
  8. Serious efforts have to be made by the Ministry of Education and also FEACC towards adequate and better civic education (also raising awareness on ugly faces of corruption) with regards to the development of ethical and highly conscientious citizens who respect rights, perform their duties diligently and far away from corruption. We also think that the Media and civic organizations can play important and productive roles in this regard.
  9. There need to exist clear and legally binding collaboration and synergy between the major stakeholders such as FEACC, Police, Courts and the Attorney general at various levels and specific issues.
  10. All parties, particularly the Government and the FEACC, should work on prevention mechanisms, monitoring, and clear systems of operation, rule of law, accountability and transparency.
  11. In sum, the followings are major interventions that should be considered to combat corruption:
    • The government should demonstrate political commitment to combat corruption;
    • Harnessing the power of people in the fight against corruption is vital;
    • Capacity building efforts should be made at all levels, including the regional commissions with an intent to lead the anti-corruption movement successfully;
    • Both public and private organizations should mainstream their fights against corruption, including assigning the ethics officers, and
    • Media should be able to launch investigative journalism in a bid to fight and reduce corruption.