By Azmera Tesfaye
Recent reports of corruption and embezzlement by the Meles & Co. and the ensuing spin on the news seems to have come as a surprise for some innocents. However, Ethiopians who are living under a regime that controls land 100% under its own ownership and runs as a tax collector and as a tax payer simultaneously by running hundreds of companies owned by the political party TPLF, have no illusion that Meles’s TPLF is rotten corrupt and runs on by swindling public money, then as well as now.
You can have an example of how Meles & Co. run their “kleptocracy” as follows. This is a glimpse into the inner workings of the TPLF Plc. – how the machinery has increasingly evolved into a business empire, corrupted by the convenience of power; lubricated by the decadent slogan that this is our historic moment to prosper and the reckless greed that breeds more insatiable and bottomless want. What is sad is that the TPLF Plc. is engaged in entrenching itself as the next class of Ethiopian capitalist at the catastrophic expense of the poor Ethiopian people in a manner only a colonial conqueror sabotages its subject’s wellbeing and wealth.
Aside from the addictive nature of corruption, the bottom-line for TPLF’s brazen exploitation emanates from two mistaken beliefs: firstly, now that the Amhara system had been dismantled now is our time and we shall make use of this opportune historic moment to lay the economic and political foundations that would transform us as Ethiopia’s future POWER brokers. The other self-serving excuse is that “We have been working hard to fight and come to power and what makes exploiting a country that has been (3000) years poor such a big deal.
To show how the TPLF Plc’s embezzlement is so pervasive, aggressive, and heartless, we would delve into an ongoing corrupt incident that perpetrated by Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin and Tedros Adhanom and other major TPLF Plc players.
The incident occurred in the Ministry of Health, which is, supposedly, the keeper of the sick, the poor, and the disabled. The Ministry under Minister Tedros Adhanom is a place where the TPLF Plc’s money machine works with its savage teeth. As the ministry is the receiver and coordinator of a large (confounding) amount of money in foreign aid and assistance, the money involved is of high interest to TPLF Plc’s Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s strongman.
For instance, the aid money supplied by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was $48 million for FY 2004, $83.7 million for FY2005, $123 million for FY2006, $241.8 million for FY2007and $354.5 million for FY2008. This smooth flow of money is just the tip of the iceberg, compared to what Ethiopia gets in aid money from other programs such as the ones sponsored by Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria ($1,107,164,389) and another millions of dollars from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention CDC.
So when the funds and pharmaceutical and health equipment from these sources became even greater by the year, the TPLF Plc. was not short of ideas on how to exploit these funds that are beyond scrutiny. As these funds were mostly related to health related issues, when the money that was being supplied by Global Fund, PEPFAR and CDC (and a host of other donors) became unmanageably huge, the first step to do was to create an agency as an offshoot of the TPLF Plc business empire that would be awarded unsupervised contracts to advance the business interests of TPLF Plc. Hence, what came to the scene was PLCU Plc. (Private Laboratory Consortium Unit), which is a key part of the business empire run by the TPLF plc’s Dejena/EFFORT conglomerate.
Hence, what was surprising was not that the company was formed under the TPLF Plc, but the owners (board members) were none other than the wife of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, the wife of Minister of Health Tedros Adhanom, the wife of the Head of the Drug Administration and Control Agency (DACA) Hailesilasse Bihone and Mr. Markos Teklu, CEO of PLCU Plc. This company, just like the hundreds of other Dejena/EFFORT companies run by TPLF Plc, are favored with slingshot outsourcing/awarding (without bidding) of government projects and contracts with no transparent competition by citizens. (Aside from this corrupt exercise of political clout by the TPLF Plc, the companies are favored in terms of using the broader political and administrative machinery for garnering credits from government banks, easy access to customs’ clearance and shady and covert tax and account holding away from the public scrutiny.)
The critical action that shades light on how, at the immoral cost of the Ethiopian people, Meles and the TPLF Plc milk aid money for the narrow interests of the Dejena/EFFORT conglomerate is the manner of how the regime uses its absolute power to corrupt public funds absolutely. After the usual drama of aid being given and ferenjis shacking hands with high officials who cutting ribbons, the real job would be schemed in the offices of the TPLF Plc. For instance, in 2006, after the CDC gave health, pharmaceutical, laboratory and medical and technology equipment in aid, the PLCU Plc. run amok to swindle these materials. This was what happened.. On this occasion it is the officials named above who give the PLCU the green light to control and/or sell those aid materials. Hence, PLCU Plc, of course was awarded the contract to handle the materials. Over a course of some period, the CDC materials that PLCU was supposed to bring for the Ministry of Health and the regional/Kilil Health Bureaus vanish. Yes, vanish into thin air. Imagine – these are millions of DOLLARS worth of state-of-the-art pharmaceutical, laboratory, medical and technological equipment. These equipment were reportedly sold in Ethiopia and throughout East Africa – that is, after PLCU Plc was equipped with these embezzled wealth and transformed into the only pharmaceutical and laboratory giant. Now the PLCU Plc. is one of the major components of the Dejena/EFFORT conglomerate.
After these public wealth was embezzled and siphoned by TPLF Plc’s top officials by way of one of its companies –the PLCU Plc – a scapegoat had to be fabricated. What comes next is everybody’s guess. If you have absolute power and control all components of the three branches of government both at the federal and in all the state levels (absolute power), you are not short of ways and means. Hence, the federal police apparently opened a file to “investigate” a huge fictional “robbery” of the warehouse of the Ministry of Health, to cover up for the embezzlement. In a country that is administered by a strongman and not by independent strong institutions, you can definitely get your way out – whatever crime you commit – as there is no accountability and transparency.
What struck us most was when, at one point, the sell of these equipment created a buzz in the country and a TPLF Plc. official inside the Ministry of Health sought to put a temporary hold to the swindling, it was Prime Minister Meles himself who gave orders that they should be left alone with their scheme of enriching TPLF’s conglomerate.
By the same token, most also agree that the “independent” HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Office, which was run by a national secretariat was pushed into the Ministry of Health as the money was better handled under ministry run by Tedros Adhanom. Similar issues of corruption are also occurring in DACA and PHRAMID that has become a hallmark of the TPLF Plc.
This instance of how TPLF companies get their capital and how aggressively they work for swindling and siphoning money shades light on the creation of, in Sebhat Nega’s admission, the biggest and the richest business empire in the history of Ethiopia – Dejena/EFFORT conglomerate.
This exposition is the tip of the iceberg and the purpose is to let the public know what is being done with the aid money that is being received in its name. Even if we the writers are classic “beneficiaries” of the present system, we have found it essential to expose this as a moral calling as well as with the firm belief that any system that is built on a rusting foundation is doomed to end when people come to know more about its hidden activities. This exposition also makes clear the reason behind the shrilling and insistent noise behind the demand for aid and the tact of not outlining sensible land and economic policies that would significantly improve the lives of Ethiopians. It also answers the reason for weakening the NGO realm and to condition aid money to flow through the government instead of directly to the people or through NGO’s.
Meles Zenawi’s TPLF is, not only a dictatorship, but corrupt and rotten – plain and simple. Time is catching up with exposing of these crimes against the country and the treasonous acts committed against the poverty stricken people. It is about time that those who have been familiar with the corrupt acts of the regime come out and expose the truth as it eventually comes out anyways. No one with sane and sound mind should allow corruption go unnoticed. The corruption and tyranny that the West condemns when it is convenient shall not be allowed to run on double standards. A criminal is a criminal – no more, no less. The West shall not only condemn but bring to justice President these kinds of reckless and greedy acts of the tyrants like Meles Zenawi. Our people have the right to know the truth and advance their interests in spite of the detractions perpetrated by thieves and enablers.