30 December 2017

Ethiopia: Agency Tightens Grip to Integrate Nation's Infrastructure Dev't

A new directive requires all infrastructure projects in the country to be registered and receive permits from the Federal Integrated Infrastructure Development Coordinating Agency (FIIDCA) before commencing groundwork.

The directive, circulated two weeks ago, authorises the Agency to issue permits for any infrastructure work including construction, installation and related activities, and to enforce as well as keep track of these projects. The Agency will also evaluate and approve work and programs prepared by the infrastructure development institutions.

Drafted over the past year, the directive intends to integrate projects carried out by Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA), Ministry of Water, Irrigation & Electricity (MoWIE), Ethio telecom, Ethiopian Railway Corporation (ERC) and Ethiopian Electric Utility (EEU).

The Authority is meant to institutionalise and ensure major infrastructure projects in the country: roads, railways, airports, dry ports, power, irrigation, telecom, water and sewerage, will be planned, designed and implemented in an efficiently coordinated and integrated manner, unlike the trend where one institution damages another infrastructure while developing its own.

"The country has been incurring huge economic and engineering costs for lack of integration," asserts Abebe Dinku (Prof), an expert with over three decades of experience in civil engineering and currently the chair of Construction Materials & Management at the Addis Abeba Institute of Technology's School of Civil & Environmental Engineering.

The five agencies are expected to prepare their projects in accordance with road infrastructure plans, comply with the issuance procedures and obtain permits from the Agency. Additionally, they are obliged to inform the Agency if any institution finds that the work does not conform with other infrastructure development.

Before giving the green light to any project, the Agency will carry out screening procedures to ensure project readiness, fair and adequate compensation of projects, affected people and organisations, site safety and environmental conservation, coordination of utility and infrastructure agencies, and facilitating downstream activities.

The registration and permit process encompasses activities such as upgrading or rehabilitation of infrastructure projects and utilities, emergency and new project developments, infrastructure cuts and maintenance of large-scale projects.

"The registration and licensing will apply to all projects except for those which need to be kept secret," Eskindir Yimam, public relations director of the Agency told Fortune.

When the construction of Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) began, the project was under wraps, for political reasons, before announcing it to the public.

The permit process requires the project owner to submit a permit application form with necessary documents such as feasibility study, budget allocation documents, clearance from affected utility, notification letter for all stakeholders, just to name a few.

After analysing the application, which could take up to a month, the Agency will hold a hearing before issuing the permit. The licence will be valid for a year from the date of the issuance. If the validity period lapses without any work carried out, the owner would be required to file another application.

In July, the City Administration had established a new organ to conduct similar tasks as the FIIDCA. The Infrastructural Development Integration & Building Permit & Control Authority was formed after the city council approved its establishment proclamation merging it with the Building Permit & Control Authority.

"The Authority is not yet operational as it is working on its organisational structure," according to Melesse Aleka, general manager of the Building Permit & Control Authority.

"Until the Authority becomes functional, we are delegated to undertake their responsibility," said Eskindir.

Two months ago, the major infrastructure agencies signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to integrate their projects under the instruction given by the Prime Minister's Office.

Aside from issuing permits, the Agency will collaborate, consult and implement alternative dispute resolution approaches during the early stage of project preparation.

This will allow the Agency to revoke the permit if the owner is unable to comply with its conditions. Certificate revocation may be based on a report or requested by the Agency or any concerned stakeholder.

In due process, the Agency may issue a written notice in accordance with follow up and enforcement procedures to be applied either on a regular basis or during an investigation.

"The directive is long overdue, but it could still reduce economic and engineering damages caused by lack of integration," according to Abebe. To avoid further damages to roads and other utilities, he believes, the Agency needs to plan ahead during the construction of new roads.

"During road construction, some spaces for new cable lines or additional tubes must be designated for other installations such as telecom and sewerage systems," Abebe suggests.


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