BY DAWIT ENDESHAW | THE REPORTER
The Office of the Prime Minister issued a new circular imposing more restrictions on foreign travels by officials. In a circular signed by the outgoing minister of cabinet affairs, Alemayehu Tegenu, all government agencies are to restrict all unnecessary travels. The Office has attributed the latest instruction to the current foreign currency shortage.
The letter was circulated to all federal public agencies on April 18, 2018.
Furthermore, all travel requests by public agencies from experts to ministers have to be first submitted to the Office of the PM for approval. The office in return will evaluate the importance of the travel request and has the power to approve or reject the request.
The importance of the travels will also be evaluated in accordance with the current foreign currency shortage.
It is to be recalled that, a few weeks ago Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, during his meeting with the business community indicated that the country is facing a serious shortage of foreign currency. He also said that his government might be forced to ask some of the business community to bring back some of their foreign currency which the PM said is deposited in foreign banks.
This is not the first time that the government issued such instructions.
In September 2017 Ministry of Finance & Economic Cooperation, issued a directive which puts a strict embargo on unnecessary foreign travel by staff members of government agencies. The directive also gave the office of the Prime Minister the mandate to approve such travels as it sees fit.
However, this directive was not effective enough to stop officials from wasting taxpayers’ money.
According to a director of an agency whose name withheld upon request states that “he has seen on a number of occasions when the directive was violated.” Hence, this attempt by PM office might be in response to this problem, he added.
It is to be recalled that the same directive had also introduced provisions to minimize other unnecessary costs.
In this regard, the directive listed around 19 different purchase activities under recurrent expenditure that should be taken into consideration by the federal offices while using their budget.
It prohibits the procurement of promotional materials such as printed paper, notebooks, pens, calendar, agendas, and yearbooks and so on. Yet again, common stationery items are among the things whose consumption has to be reduced significantly.
Moreover, government offices are also allowed to serve only water and coffee while hosting workshops, seminars and different meetings during the budget year. It is also forbidden to purchase T-shirts, bags and cultural dresses which has become a common practice across government institutions.
It is to be recalled that this particular directive came just after the government started its crackdown on corruption that resulted in the arrest of a number officials and business people in the country. In most cases, the accused are either implicated with construction projects or public procurements contracts.