Water officials among 61 detained in new Ethiopian corruption crackdown

Ethiopian authorities have arrested 61 government officials on suspicion of embezzlement and "economic sabotage", according to a statement released on Friday by Berhanu Tsegaye, the attorney general.

Berhanu said the arrests on Thursday included the head of the government’s Public Procurement and Property Disposal Service, and 10 officials in the Water Works Construction Enterprise (WWCE), as well as workers in the former Finance, Economics and Cooperation ministry.

The allegations against the WWCE officials relates to the embezzlement of $2.3m of public funds during the procurement of reinforcing bar, while former officials from Public Procurement & Property Disposal Service involves the alleged theft of $24m of wheat.

Berhanu said investigators had found "properties, such as title deeds of houses held by the suspects, which are beyond their income".

After taking office last year, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed promised to clean up state-owned firms and the military, and cancelled many contracts for its military-run industrial conglomerate METEC, which was fired from working on Ethiopia’s Grand Renaissance Dam project. In January, the former head of METEC was charged with corruption (see Further reading).

Image: Ethiopians’ access to water is among the lowest in the world (US Navy)

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