Four Suspects behind 280mln Bir Education Book Scam Arrested

ADDIS ABEBA – Four former officials of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education linked with a major fraud have been arrested on Tuesday. Police said the fraud has incurred at least 280 million birr loss to the government.

Commander Tadesse Ayalew, leader of the corruption cases investigation team, told state television that the suspects committed fraud crimes which incurred millions of birr losses to the government.

Police arrested the suspects, namely Mekonnen Addis, Eshetu Asfaw, Taye Mengistu, and Nigusse Beyene, on Tuesday.

The corruption scandal occurred during a bidding process to print grade 1 to grade 8 students and teachers books three years ago.

The arrest of the officials came after an Indian company, which won the bid but failed to get the work, appealed its case to the anti-Corruption Commission of Ethiopia and the government’s procurement agency.

The two offices wrote a formal letter appealing for the ministry to look into the matter and make an amendment.

But the suspects who were members of the committee that oversaw the bidding process refused to heed the complaint by providing various technical reasons and chose not to award the work to the Indian firm which offered 55 million birr less than their final peak.

Besides, Commander Tadesse said their peak went on to produce books with a reduced number of pages of the textbooks – contrary to what was stated in the bid document.

Despite substandard work, police said the suspects allowed for the books to be distributed to schools across the country and made 80 percent of the payment, forcing the government to lose up to 217 million birr in the process.

In total, the country has incurred at least 280 million birr loss, according to the police report.

Apart from arresting the suspects, police have seized cash including foreign currencies found in their houses and have blocked their bank accounts and that of their families with a lot of deposits.