Administrative Agencies in Ethiopia

Aberham Yohannes and Desta G/michael Feb 01 2012

Administrative law is mostly tied with the study of manner of exercise of governmental power. By governmental power here refers to power of the executive and administrative agencies. The evolution of administrative law may be traced back to the emergence and proliferation of agencies.

The outstanding feature of administrative agencies in the history of Ethiopian government is their non-existence. For instance, a century back there were no regularly established royal councils, no clear cut system of local government, no established national army police force and no civil service system. Agencies as a machinery of public administration is relatively a recent phenomena in Ethiopia.

It was in the mid of the  19th century during the reign of Emperor Tewodros that a series of reforms including abolition of slave trade, suppression of the custom of vendetta, regulation of the power and lands of the church, and the civil service system were introduced in Ethiopia for the first time. Foreseeing the need of a decentralised system of administration to implement these reforms, Tewodros sought to turn the local chiefs into salaried officials responsible to the imperial power. However, apart from the establishment of a territorial police force and a regular army any specific agency charged with public administration was unknown and non-existent. Despite this there was some traditional administrative personnel in the government. Early historians e identified four primary heads of department under the emperor; 1) Yetor Abegaz(commander-in-chief of the army) 2) Afe Negus(judge on all appeals in the name of the emperor save the death sentence)  3) Tsehafe Tezaz(keeper of the great seal of the Enperor and writer of all imperial orders) ; 4)Ligaba( communicator of all imperial orders, deputy yettor Abegaz, and sergeant-at-arms to the Emperor.)

In 1907, Emperor Menelik created the first ministerial framework in ethiopia, consisting of the following ministries:

  • Ministry of Justice
  • Ministry of Interior
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ministry of Finance
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Industry
  • Ministry of Public Works
  • Ministry of War
  • Ministry of Pen
  • Ministry of Palace

To some extent, the process was simply of giving new titles to old officials. The Afenegus became Minister of Justice and the Tsehafe tezaz became the Ministry of Pen. Further, the ministers bore the status of personal servants to the crown. However, during this time, though autonomy was hardly realized and though delegation of usable power existed more on paper than in reality, a permanent administrative body was established as an integral organ of the central government.

The 1931 constitution laid a foundation for the existence of the first administrative agencies in the Ethiopian history of public administration. The constitution recognised the existence of the executive branch of the government. Under Article 11 it was provided that the Emperor would lay down the organization and the regulation of all administrative departments. During that time a number of ministries and administrative departments.

In 1962, the most relevant government institution for the development of formal administration, the Imperial Ethiopian Central Personnel Agency (CPA), was established by order no. 23 of 1962. The agency was given the power to classify jobs, to recruit public servants, to establish pay scales and to issue regulations necessary for the establishment of homogeneous public service.

Until the fall of the imperial regime in 1974, various administrative and chartered agencies were established. Most of those administrative agencies bearing names of ministry, commission authority or agency were made accountable to the prime minister. There were about twenty one agencies at the ministerial level. These are The Ministry of National Community Development and Social affairs, The Ministry of Public Health, The Ministry of Land Reform and Administration, The Ministry of Communications, The Ministry of Information and Tourism, The Ministry of Mines, The Ministry of Public Works, The Ministry of Education and Fine Arts, The Ministry of Commerce and Industry, The Ministry of National Defence, The Ministry of Interior, The Ministry of Agriculture, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Ministry of Finance, The Ministry of Imperial Court, The ministry of Pen, The Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Planning and Development, The Ministry of Posts, Telegraph, and Telephones, The Ministry of Stores and Supplies, and The Ministry of Pensions. A number of  chartered agencies were also established during that time. These include National Community Development(1957), Board of National Community Development(1957), Our National Defence Council(1958), Central Personnel Agency and Public Service(1962), Public Employment Administration(1962), Technical Agency(1963), Charter of The National Bank of Ethiopia(1963), Ethiopian Tourist Organization(1964), Land Reform and Development Authority(1965), Institute of Agricultural Research(1966), Haile Selassie I University Charter(1961), and Awash Valley Authority Charter.

The 1987 constitution of The People’s Democratic Republic of Ethiopia under Article 89(1) gave all administrative powers to the council of ministers. The council was composed of the prime minister, deputy prime ministers, ministers and other members including heads of the secretariat of state committees. authorities and commissioners. Following the constitution, in the created  the cabinet there were twenty ministries, seven commissions, six authorities, two state committees, and two institutes.

The 1995 F.D.R.E constitution introduced a federal structure  sharing power between the federal government and the regional states. The federal government comprises of the house of people’s representatives as the supreme lawmaker, the executive (the prime minister and the council of ministers) and the judicial branch (first instance, high court and supreme court) A similar division of power also introduced at each regional state.

Currently, administrative agencies are established at the federal and state level. The constitution does not directly or indirectly make a reference to administrative agencies as parts of the system of government. It recognises the separation of powers among the three branches of government. This means, in effect, the source of legislative and judicial power of administrative agencies, typically those at the federal level could not be easily justified on constitutional grounds. For instance, the constitution does not in any way allow the house of people’s representatives to share or transfer some of its law making powers to agencies headed by unelected officials. Legislation through delegation is only mentioned with respect to the council of ministers. Hence, it will be a challenge for the Ethiopian administrative law to formulate a theoretical justification for the very existence and source of power of administrative agencies.

Two types of agencies exist at the federal level: These are independent and executive agencies. The independent agencies have a constitutional basis for their existence, and are directly accountable to the house of peoples representatives. They are five in number and all of them have been formally established through an act of parliament. These are the Human Rights Commission, The Ombudsman Office, The Auditor General, The Naational Election Board and The Population Census Commission.

The executive agencies are accountable directly to the prime minister, or the superior ministry, or the council of ministers. In 2007, there were about fifty government entities named as government agencies. Due to the lack a precise definition of an administrative agency in Ethiopia, every government entity partially or fully funded by the government is considered to be an administrative agency.

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