Ethiopian Telecom: The Mother of All Corruption.

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It was with disbelief and great shock that I read Russell Southwood's article: Ethiopia puts off privatizing ETC but rolls out nationwide fibre network.

Ethiopian Telecom, the Mother of All Corruption, is praised?

An Intelsat X series satellite It was with disbelief and great shock that I read Russell Southwood's article: Ethiopia puts off privatizing ETC but rolls out nationwide fibre network. I am an ETC Senior Engineer who has been with ETC for 20 solid years, and during all these years, I have been working with seven CEOs, including Tesfaye Biru. ETC prior to Tesfaye Biru had a well streamlined, highly structured and a well thought out modern administration as was initially established by the Swedish and later on upgraded and refined by the previous seasoned and internationally renowned CEOs.

ETC used to employ internationally acknowledged procurement and bidding procedures. The drawback the preceding ETC CEOs wrestled with was one and only one i.e. finance. Despite the serious financial dearth the CEOs prior to Tesfaye Biru could bring in Internet, Mobile service, DDN and others into the country. The CEOs prior to Tesfaye Biru had all the strength of character, knowledge and the necessary technical and management capability to do the job to the required professional standard. It is a shame when one lies in such a naked manner and dares to present himself as one who brought all these new technologies to the country. Even fiber optic was considered by the previous managers and discarded as unwise investment from economic return point of view.

In January 2003 the present CEO came into the picture. To begin with Tesfaye Biru is a Mathematics graduate with no knowledge about the telecom and ICT. His appointment was the beginning of all subsequent debacles as clearly verified during the last two and a half years. Many predicted Tesfaye Biru’s appointment was a recipe for disaster. As predicted the disaster exceeded the magnitude of many concerned persons fear and worry. The writer, I presume, should be from a company that should have sold some equipment to ETC. The article for sure is written in consultation with Tesfaye Biru. The writer has surprisingly attached an interview with Tesfaye Biru. Nobody can tell who interviewed Tesfaye Biru, when he was interviewed and the circumstances in which he was interviewed is not also known. It is weird. Is it not???!!!

I again presume Tesfaye Biru wants to use the Weyane useless regime as a escapegoat for all series of blunders and deliberate corrupt practices under his leadership for the last two and a half years, and seems determined to use the government as a perfect excuse. Yes, that is true the Ethiopian government policies all round are a recipe for disaster. Tesfaye Biru perfectly knows this. He accepted the appointment with full knowledge about the government. Now, he is trying to tell us via a certain foreigner that it is not Tesfaye Biru who is at fault, but the government. It is a very attractive argument. For unwary reader Tesfaye Biru’s cheap trick works excellently. But under close scrutiny one should ask only one question: "Where has our US $1.7 billion gone?" We are looted and plundered to death.

It is very surprising that apparently a foreigner has come to a rescue of Tesfaye Biru by attacking the Weyane government. It is very easy. Tesfaye Biru thought it is a good way out and begged one of his companies men to do his best to polish his tarnished image. The writer to make his fabricated story about ETC credible mixed up a big truth about the government’s misguided policy on the telecom. This is repeatedly said. The government, as it is always the case, is adamant enough not to accept good advices about telecom. It is in all other economic sectors too. ETC is no exception.

The issue regarding the telecom is the money spent during the last two and half years under the leadership of Tesfaye Biru. Let me give you a simple example. Say you bought a nice jacket. Friends and acquaintances may appreciate the quality. But any admiration should be contingent on the price of the jacket vis a vis its quality. By the same token one may say the number of mobile phones and internet users has increased. It has not as such increased much when compared with the population. Besides the quality of the service deserves more emphasis than the sheer numbers which at the end of the year Tesfaye Biru uses it for a meaningless statistics. Now, one here should ask how much money Tesfaye Biru spent on purchase during the last two and a half years.

Tesfaye Biru spent 1.9 Billion United States Dollars during the last two and half years. I visualise many of you shooting up from your seat in a great shock. And also I know many of you say this is a lie. I don’t blame you. It is humanely impossible to imagine a poor country living on food hand out coming from the west could afford to spend this much money within two and half years. This is NOT the tragedy. The real tragedy is the fact all bought gadgets are inferior quality and/or incompatible with the system. The writer mentioned about school net. ETC purchased a VSAT for 30 Million USD for the purpose of the school net. Actually, we have NO school net at present. Schools receive no teaching program directly from anywhere via satellite. What we have now is education via TV. What schools do is insert a recorded video cassette and watch a recorded teaching program. What is the use of the VSAT then???. Even if we had a school net it was not designed to be interactive. Not only that. I have more to tell you.

The recorded teaching programs come from South Africa and no student understands it due to the South Africans' difficult English pronunciation. Here we can safely conclude Tesfaye Biru threw into the bush 30 Million USD. If our ordeal stops here it could have been fantastic. It doesn’t stop here. ETC has to pay for a space segment to INTELSAT 1.5 Million USD. We spent 30 Million USD on a gadget we didn’t use i.e. the VSAT. Over and above this we pay for a soace segment. Huh, this is sickening. Fiber optic is a fiasco project. No need to mention about it. As is the case always no feasibility study is done about it. I assure you with a hundred and one percent precision that Fiber Optic will fail too.

Let us now examine the mobile network. Tesfaye Biru bought a mobile system from a Chinese company called ZTE. The system costed ETC 400 Million Ethiopian Birr. The Chinese sold their system. ETC said it is tested and proved to be excellent. All the warranty period expired. After the warranty period expired ETC started complaining about the system. Now they decided to dismantle it and damp it at the famous warehouse where such gadgets are damped by the direct order of Tesfaye Biru. Let me tell you about the procurement. Tesfayed Biru issued a tender. One company that offered 10 Million USD declared winner. But contract signed for 40 Million USD. Another company in another project that offered 11.5 Million USD declared winner. Contract signed for 47 Million USD. Another company that offered 9 Million USD was declared a winner. Contract signed for 31 Million USD.

Let me tell you again about one big tragedy. The Chairman of ETC Board, Ato Getachew Belay, wanted to buy indoor and outdoor antenna with all its accessories for a direct link via sattellit meant to create sort of network etc. Tesfaye Biru was consulted. He recommended a gadget. That gadget was bought for 26 Million Ethiopian Birr. But the gadget bought was compatible ONLY with KU band, not C band. Our Sululta satellite station is a C band. Tesfaye Biru took the gadget and dumped it at ETC’s famous warehouse and bought another one for the Ministry of revenue which is being headed by Getachew Belay. Tesfaye Biru again threw 26 Million Ethiopian Birr into the bush. I recently visited ETC’s warehouse and it is still there. This happened two years before. A gadget worth 26 Million USD is damped for two years. Tesfaye Biru said we will use it someday in the future when we set up another Sululta satellite station with a KU band. It is all like a joke. Finally. I want to advise the writer not to dust his conscience for a filthy profit. If he is a man with a high moral standard, he should truly feel it stealing money from poor Ethiopians is a crime against humanity.



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