The newly resurrected Code Enforcement Services Office (CESO) is in its second week of a campaign to demolish 18,388 illegal businesses, 16,756 illegal land invasions and 2,281 unauthorised constructions across Addis Abeba.
This is in addition to looking out for other code infractions under their mandate. Such issues run the gamut from sanitation violations, damage on public property, illegal animal slaughtering, illegal advertising, noise pollution and businesses deemed to cause disturbance, such as khat chewing and hookah smoking places.
Boutiques, cafeterias and shops were ordered to relinquish the practice of displaying furniture and any other goods outdoors. Tarp shades hanging outdoors to protect against rough weather were also prohibited.
As of Monday, September 9, 2013, 1,884 code enforcers have been scoring the city for any sign of infractions, clad in uniforms marked with the logo of the Addis Abeba City Administration. Their number will shoot up to 3,248 in the near future, according to Zenabu Retta, communication affairs head at the Office.
Trained in Tolay - a military camp in Jimma, 346km from Addis Abeba - the code enforcers have the mandate to take down accessories and repossess goods, which they previously cautioned business owners to remove. They have come armed with tools, like large hammers and screwdrivers, according to business-owners in the Lancia area onSierra Leone Street, who were recently inspected by the enforcers. They were also accompanied by the Addis Abeba Traffic Police to help with enforcements.
The current campaign is just the beginning of what will be a regular inspection process in the city, according to Zenabu. The code enforcers will be a staple feature running daily inspections.
"What comes first, however, is awareness creation. Then follows the swift and immediate action against rampant violation of city codes," he told Fortune.
This is the first city-wide campaign by the Office, which had been closed for two years, only commencing services six months ago. When the city undertook its Business Process Reengineering (BPR) evaluations, the CESO was viewed as having overlapping responsibilities within its own hierarchy and with other city bureaus. This was along with other accountability and logistics problems, which rendered it ineffective. It was dissolved and its responsibilities dispersed to other bureaus within the City Administration.
In February 2012, however, a city proclamation re-established the Office, arming it with larger human resource and organisational mandate than its predecessor.
The Office's structure, which goes down to the Wereda level, is set up to have 58 employees at the central office, 120 employees, disbursed equally for each District, and 812 Wereda officers.
This is excluding the code enforcers who do field inspections. The Office is directly accountable to the Mayor's Office, following an amendment to the establishment proclamation that placed it under the City's Justice Bureau.
Hiring staff, training enforcers and setting up office, onRoosevelt Street, at the building that also houses the Roads Authority and Transport Bureau, took time, according to Zenabu.
After becoming operational, the Office has taken sample research to identify the number of illegal businesses. Progressing its efforts to a further level, it has identified susceptible sites in every Wereda where infractions are widespread.
It is its current campaign, however, that has made it familiar to city residents, who have already given the code enforcers a nickname "shih kebele". According to a garage assistant who came under inspection by the enforcers, the shih (thousand) refers to the way the code enforcers travel in large packs, as well as their salary. They are paid close to 1,400 Br, equivalent to an entry level job for a bachelor degree holder, Fortune confirmed.
The garage assistant, who works onGabon Street(meskel square), was guilty of running a Veranda business. This refers to people who use legal business owners as a cover to run their own unlicensed business close by - usually on the terrace or street corner, by the side of the legitimate business. Usually this is done by striking a rent agreement with the legal business owners.
The garage assistant who wanted to remain anonymous usually fixes cars with minor problems outside on the street. But, code enforcers had come a week previously, requesting that he move the cars inside the garage. They were accompanied by traffic officers who took the driving licenses of three drivers, he said. Now the garage assistant tries to work inside the garage, which he describes as stony and uneven, and already full of cars requiring a serious fix.
Street vendors have also had their carts and goods repossessed, including shoe shiners.
Although most businesses around the Lancia area that Fortune talked to, who underwent inspections last week, did not object to the code enforcers attempting to instill order, being told to avoid outdoor displays and take down tarp shades did not go down well.
"The shades protect our products from sunlight and stop our furniture from fading," Tebles Tekle, who runs her sister's furniture store onGabon street, complained to Fortune.
The fact that she was asked to move her furniture display inside, leaving her shop full of furniture, as well as a broken window from moving goods inside, has left her displeased.
Cheru Assefa, who has a liquor grocery and meat diner, fears a decline in business following the recent inspections. He has a shade and chairs outside so that his customers can enjoy a beer while overlooking cars. But, on Wednesday, he was asked to move these inside.
"As long as they do not seriously block the pedestrian way, I do not see the harm," he told Fortune.
But, viewed as tarnishing the image of the city, and just as a cover to display goods outside, these shades have to go, the enforcers are insisting.
Businesses are already going to the Office to complain over repossessed goods and arrests made over alleged attempts to bribe officers. They have been told that the rules are to be respected, Zenabu said. Some of these businesses met the Office head, Tessema Negash (commander), and his deputy, Haile Amare (assistant commander).
As of Wednesday, the Steering Committee was conducting evaluations on how the campaign has been carried out so far.