The concept good governance emerged as a development agenda by World Bank twenty years ago. The 1989 World Bank study, “Sub-Saharan Africa – from Crisis to Sustainable Growth” (1), indicated good governance as a public service that is efficient, a judicial system that is reliable, and an administration that is accountable to the public. In its 1992 report entitled “Governance and Development”(2), the Bank defined good governance as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”.

Further in the 1994, the “Governance: The World Bank’s Experience” (3) report identified four elements of good governance: Public-sector management, Accountability, Legal framework for development, and Transparency and information. On the other hand, the Asian Development Bank (4) stated Accountability, Participation, Predictability and Transparency as basic elements of good governanceThe African Development Bank and African Development Fund (5) on their part came with Accountability, Transparency, Combating corruption, Participation Legal and judicial reform in support of good governance in the continent. UNDP ‘s policy document, “Governance for Sustainable Human Development” (6), listed Participation, Rule of law, Transparency, Consensus orientation, Equity, Effectiveness and efficiency, Accountability and Strategic vision as essential characteristics of good governance. Furthermore, authors like Graham, Amos and Plumptre (7) tried to set five principles of good governance for the 21st century. These include legitimacy and voice, direction, performance, accountability and fairness, and linked them with the UNDP’s features of good governance. Common to all are accountability, transparency, participation, reliable judicial and legal system and the rest are somehow mutually inclusive.

The Twelve Ethical principles in Ethiopian civil Service have stemmed from the aforementioned lists of good governance constituents. Decentralization, public-private partnership, and other change management models have been echoed for years. However, the practice on the ground remains an area of scrutiny.

Here are few not-good governance practices in Ethiopia

Where the Federal Audit General’s three or more consecutive years report ranked education sector among the top as very poor in managing public finance, but schools and universities have faced shortage of education facilities and citizens’ are crying for quality education; on the other hand Speaker of House of the parliament and top government officials are defending that it does not mean a corruption;

- Where bribery, extortion, favoritism, or nepotism in selecting teachers for promotion, upgrading, or grants; fraud to obtain teaching jobs; capture of recruitment by groups with vested interests; fraud in certification (transcripts and certificates) —risks are high;

- Where your literacy and numeracy program with whatsoever name like Integrated Functional Adult Education (IFAE) found to be astray and indeed evaluated as downsides of the sector for the last three or so years but millions left illiterate;

- Where some classrooms in the inner city of Addis are left empty but children in the peripheral areas either attend school on shift bases or have never been to school; when it is seldom possible for the government to ensure national curriculum implementation and support educational institutions to prepare citizens’ in line with the education policy objectives;

- Where the drafted education law is downplayed for unknown reasons; and unlike Republic of South Africa’s education and finance ministers, ours are not being taken to court over poor standards at schools. But, startlingly promoted to the level of deputy PM;

- Where Ethiopian Telecommunication downsized its employee size and employed “letter” economics in its naming (from 26 to 12 letters of Ethiotelecom) without any significant improvements in the service; working under exacerbating connectivity problem that is found to be a bottleneck in the business and others activities; contradicting with e-governance principles; negatively affected career of those who were laid off and their families;

- Where the sole electricity supplier corporation always emphasizes on transformation capacity related problems for frequent power interruption; and labels the citizens government “dependent” (tebakinet), but too late to respond to the poor quality procurement of equipments; 

- Where the state enterprises like regional water works and construction have been gripped in corrupt acts and the projects (Borena, Addis Ababa Zuria, Fentale, Didesa area etc) ceased or left planned; but millions are thirsty, food insecure;

- Where the civil service cannot address dissatisfactions in the pay scales; whereas sector officials’ willingness alone makes things to happen rather than research based reform via thorough scrutiny and job grading. Where some government organizations (Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA), Technical and Vocational Education, Training Center of competency, Ministry of Urban Construction and Development...) have made a pay reform, others have been prohibited the vertical and horizontal career growth;

- Where one of the major state revenue source— custom tax subject to swindle by merchants and ERCA employees and officials; where the current corruption scandal in the ERCA divulges the futility of salary increment as a corruption prevention instrument;

- Where government officials are driving the latest Toyota models; villas and other accommodations valued in millions of birr are provided and indeed awaiting after their post; but urging public participation in development activities, telling us budget deficit; citizens are fighting to death on the worsening situation of urban transportation (even in areas off light train project); Where you as a “citizen” are told to give up a month salary for the second round to finance Grand Millennium Dam Project, but consulted only on payment period (a monthly salary in how many years?) than let you participate on the amount  you afford;

- Where the food item and other consumption goods price hike, but the regulatory measures intensifying than resolving the problem; when the consumers’ right protection and consumers’ cooperatives cannot stabilize the market;

- Where grievances related to quality service provision fall on deaf ears, but traditional denunciation and self denunciation have been taking place in government offices without any value addition or often worsening the situation; 

Finally, wrap up with what Camilla Louise Bjerkli concluded after a 7-year (2004-2011) thorough investigation of urban environmental governance in Addis Ababa which likely holds true for other sectors: “As long as the culture within [the] city administration and its political control persist and as long as this political control dominates the relationship between the city administration and civil society it is most likely that there will not be any improvements in the city... It is critical that the Ethiopian government be willing to genuinely commit to the policies it has adopted and to change its ways of asserting control.”


1. World Bank, 1989. Sub-Saharan Africa – from Crisis to Sustainable Growth: A Long Term Perspective study. The World Bank, Washington DC

2. World Bank, 1992. Governance and Development. The World Bank, Washington DC

3. World Bank, 1994. Governance: the World Bank’s Experience. The World Bank, Washington DC

4. Asian Development Bank (AsDB), 1995. Governance: Sound Development Management. accessed 4/3/2013

5. African Development Bank & African Development Fund Bank Group Policy on Good Governance. November 1999  accessed date 10/3/2013

6. UNDP, 1997. Governance for Sustainable Human Development accessed date 13 /3/2013

7. John Graham, Bruce Amos and Tim Plumptre, 2003. Principles for Good Governance in the 21st Century Policy Brief No.15. Institute of Governance

8. Camilla Louise Bjerkli, 2013. Governance on the Ground: A Study of Solid Waste Management in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 37(4):1273–87 July 2013