Ethiopian Roads Authority gets new chief, stirs ‘revolving doors’ concerns

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn appointed, Araya Girmay, deputy manager of Sur construction plc., as Director General of Ethiopian Roads Authority (ERA), on June 12.

Araya, who was one of the eight shortlisted for the job, by the Minister of Transport Workeneh Gebeyehu, who doubles as chair of ERA’s Board of Directors. His predecessor, Zaid Woldegebriel was removed last October upon the request of the Minister. At the time The Reporter claimed “road projects awarded to foreign contractors without adequate assessment of their performance in other road projects is the major source of disagreement between the minister and Zaid”.

Araya, a civil engineering graduate of Addis Ababa University (AAU) in 1995, served ERA for eight years as project and district manager before joining the private sector. Photo - Addis Ababa Mexico square

For the past decade, Araya has been functioning as manager of several projects of Sur Construction, including the May-day dam, before being promoted to deputy manager and construction department manager post in 2013.

Sur construction,  established 23 years ago with a 108 million Birr capital, have now reached an annual turnover of 1.4 billion Birr. It had 40 contracts with the ERA until a year ago, according to Fortune. The firm is a subsidiary of EFFORT (Endowment for the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Tigrai).

Araya has pledged to make modernization and transparency of ERA’s operations his priorities. Araya reportedly said, “my main priority will be achieving targets in the coming road sector program under the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP II),” in which the construction of 110,000 Km of roads is planned.

Engineer Araya is credited for successfully completing what is said to be the most difficult and complicated road project, the 147 km Shawura Gelego road project in North Gondar, in which he was the project manager 16 years ago. His former boss, General Manager of Sur Construction, Engineer Tadesse Yemane, told Ethiopian Reporter that Araya successfully completed the four road projects he managed, including the Menebegna – Lemlem Berha road project.

Araya’s move from a company seeking contracts from the ERA, to leadership of the ERA, comes at a time when the Roads Authority is scolded by the Federal Ethics & Anti-Corruption Commission (FEACC), for corruption prone bidding practices.

The potential conflict of interest arising from such types of assignments, termed as ‘revolving door’, is a point that needs examination. The ‘revolving door’ is a movement of personnel between a supervisory government agency and business firms with in the same industry, which may cause potential conflict of intersts.


Fetsum Berhane is an Ethiopian resident, economist researcher and a blogger on HornAffairs.

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