While India’s Grievance Redressal Bill was forged in the fire of public protest, Ethiopia chose to incorporate anti-corruption provisions in its criminal code.
“Article 416 of the criminal code deals with Undue Delay of Matters,” said an official of the Ministry of Justice. The provision penalises officials who deliberately delay providing a service for a bribe. The erring official can be sentenced to up to five years of rigorous imprisonment under the law.
In 2000, Ethiopia created an ombudsman to rectify “administrative abuses arbitrarily committed against citizens.” The institution has supervisory and investigatory powers and an independent budget, but cannot investigate cases handled by the office of Auditor-General, matters of national security or legislative decisions of elected councils.
The chief ombudsman and her deputies are appointed by the speakers of the House of Representatives, the House of the Federation, and the elected people’s representatives. This could prove a problem in a country where the ruling Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Democratic Front and its allies have been in power since 1991 and won a 99.6 per cent majority in the most recent elections, held in 2010.
In 2012, Ethiopia was rated 113th on the annual Global Corruption Index published by Transparency International, well below continental powerhouses such as South Africa (69th) and Rwanda (50th), but above most other African nations. India came in at 94.
A major problem, like in India, appears to be implementing the existing legislation and the constant daily grind of public officials seeking small bribes to fix minor problems. “In the Ethiopian bureaucracy, as we know it, the best a complainant can hope from an administrative appeal is a benevolent superior officer who reverses the unjust decision, while reminding her that the problem wouldn’t have occurred if she had ‘behaved’,” writes Daniel Berhan, a widely read Ethiopian blogger. “In the worst scenario, the case would simply be referred back, thereby leaving the complainant at the mercy of that same official.”