March 5, 2009
A London-based beauty pageant and promotion company has blamed the government of Ethiopia for breach of trust and obtaining services by deception. In a strong-worded letter it has recently sent to Prime Minster Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Life Foundation accused the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of failing to settle the cost of staging the Ethiopian International Millennium Pageant, which was held in October 2007.
The event was held in connection with the so-called Ethiopian millennium celebrations which were condemned by government critics as wasteful extravaganza for spending over 70 million dollars on spectacles and grand parties while tens of millions of Ethiopians were facing hunger and malnutrition. It was reported at the time that 37 beauty queens drawn from around the world took part in the ‘successful’ beauty contest.
The President of Ethiopia Life Foundation Andy Abulime said the special event for teenage girls crowned and awarded top five queens “considering the importance of the event in millennium festival of beauty with the titles Miss Millennium Queens; Miss Millennium World, Miss Millennium Tourism, Miss Millennium International, Miss Millennium Intercontinental.”
A trusted source at the Ministry has confirmed that the company has not been paid a penny due to the fact that the main sponsor of the event, business tycoon Sheik Mohammed Al Amoudi, failed to give a substantial amount of money he had pledged to fund the special event. It appears that in addition to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Industry as well as the now defunct Ministry of Information were represented in the event organising committee.
According to Dr Jeff Lee, a co-founder and partner of the company, the government has refused to pay the cost of organizing the international beauty pageant aimed at promoting tourism and improving the image of the country despite repeated requests. “I do not eat in a restaurant in Ethiopia and say I have no money to pay. If I did I would surely be arrested for theft or any other criminal charges, so why should government officials deceive and obtain service from me and then say they don't have money to pay when the invoice is delivered 18 months ago.”
Dr Lee alleged that 1.8 million birr was collected by the organizers to fund the event from sponsors such as the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce, Ethiopian Coffee Exporters Association and the Ethiopian Horticultural Association. “This money was supposed to be paid to us, but instead it disappeared without trace,” he said. He suspects that the money might have ended in the pockets of officials who do not seem to be interested in paying any money despite the fact the company had received a written guarantee from State Minister Mohamooda Gass stating that the government would honour its financial obligations.
The company has emphasized that it would take the matter to court if the government of Ethiopia continued to be unwilling to pay the cost of the millennium beauty pageant. “It is not in Ethiopia's interest for this matter to go to litigation in international courts as it will be very embarrassing for the Ethiopian Government.”
Ethiopian beauty Kidan Tesfahun was crowned Miss Millennium Queen at the international pageant. It also emerged that award money has not been paid to the winners as a result of the dispute.
OPEN LETTER TO
THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE & TOURISM
Ato Mohammed Dirir,
Minister Of Culture and Tourism
We have resorted to this open letter since both you and your State Minister: Mohamoda Ahmed Gass, will not respond to any attempts to discuss or settle this very serious matter in private since December 2007 . .This letter may be freely distributed.
I write as a final reminder that all fess and production costs due to us, pursuant to an informal written guarantee issued by your State Minister Mohamoda Gass, for the hosting of Miss Tourism of the Millennium that we produced for Ethiopia 18 months ago and which were due for settlement on 3rd December 2007 still remain unpaid and unsettled by your Ministry, For 18 months since the event took place we have been waiting for your Ministry to settle this matter and honour your obligations honourably and with Integrity, but instead your Ministry has for 18 months deliberately chosen to ignore it's financial obligations because apparently we do not live in Ethiopia and are a foreign company, and instead has resorted to blaming everyone you can for not being able to settle this matter honorable as agreed.
Sir, it has now been 18 months and counting since we Organised this event for the benefit of your Country ,Government and most especially your countries New Millennium Celebrations in October 2007, we invested and spent our hard earned money on Trust believing your Ministry to be trustworthy and Ethical in its conduct of business, but instead and to date not one single penny was ever paid for this event and our Production costs were never reimbursed, your Ministry set up an Elaborate Organising committee that featured several government ministries such as
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
MINISTRY OF INFORMATION
MINISTRY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY
ADDIS ABABA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES etc
And collected 1.8 million Et birr from
ETHIOPIAN SHIPPING LINES
COMMERCIAL BANK OF ETHIOPIA
ETHIOPIAN HORTICULTURAL ASSOCIATION
ETHIOPIAN COFFEES ASSOCIATION
ETHIOPIAN ELECTRIC POWER
ADDIS ABABA SECTORIAL ASSOCIATION
ADDIS ABABA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
and others supposedly as sponsorship fees payable to us and in the name of Miss Tourism of the Millennium event, this money was due to be paid to us for the promotional services we provided by Bringing this event to Ethiopia, but instead every single penny of this money simply disappeared under your ministries control and 18 months later we have not seen a penny.
I am not sure if your ministry is now designated as commercial enterprise or business, where it "Collects money for International Beauty Pageants and keeps it?" nor does the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under your control have any right or mandate to obtain any service from anybody and then refuse to pay for it latter by simply claiming "We don't have any money" in law that is known as obtaining "Services by Deception" and abusue of officie or fraudulent behaviour, but maybe there was a new proclamation in Ethiopia mandating the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under your control to do this that we were not aware of? In any case I also question if Ministry of Culture and Tourism ever paid any taxes on the 1.8 million birr or on any other revenue, it collected as a direct result of the event, but never paid to us, or is Ministry of Culture and Tourism also immune from public accounting and or taxation of revenue? The questions just seem to keep mounting up
Sir, after 18 months and counting we feel it is high time you did the honourable and responsible thing, step-up to the plate, and honour all your Ministries financial obligations to us. it is not our desire to take the Ministry of Culture and Tourism or this matter to court, nor is it in your Governments interest to be in the dock over such a matter concerning integrity and honesty, after 18 Months, we have been patient enough and simply ask you to display a level of Professional behaviour, honour and ethics commensurate with your position as a Government Minister, and settle this matter once and for all, there is no reason why Ministry of Culture and Tourism under your control have not paid anything even if according to your State Minster: "Sheik Al Amoudi promised and then failed to help you pay some of the costs", you know fully well we never had any discussions or agreement with the Sheik, and as far as we know the Sheik is not part of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, so Sheik Al Amoudi's promise [ or not, .... we don't know] should never be used as any excuse for the Ministry of Culture and Tourism failure to honour its financial obligations 18 months later. the Ministry of Culture and Tourism is a federally funded Ministry of the Democratic Republic of Ethiopia ,fully under your control and not an extension of Sheik Al Amoudi's business empire.
· Fact: We executed the Project for the Ethiopian Government and People under instructions and a Written Guarantee issued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under your control 18 months ago [ not by Shehik Al Amoudi ]
· Fact You are the Minister in charge of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and cannot tell us you don't know anything about this event or your Ministries outstanding obligations to us.
· Fact: Once the event took place the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under your control has so far refused to pay the any of hosting cost or even the prizes to the winners, in short you have not pais a single penny for this event since 2007 you have instead given every excuse under the sun.
· Fact: the Ministry of Culture and Tourism under your control did not pay a single penny to us since 2007 for organising this preferring to claime a budget deficit, and other excuses, all Agreements entered into by you minisitirty even Informal and formal and legally enforcacable
· Fact: We will initiate Legal proceeding if the Ministry of Culture and Tourism continues to ignore the Ministry of Culture and Tourism's obligation to us and settle this matter Honourably
· Fact You and other Government minsters we only to happy to attend press conferences and be VIP's pose for photos, crowning the girls with Crowns and sashes that none of paid for, I attach photos as a reminder in case after 18 months you need your memory to be jogged
With all these facts in mind one would respectfully ask how you and your state Minister Mohamouda Gass can sleep well at night and then carry on Business the next day for over 18 months as normal, knowing fully well in spite of the Grand event we produced for your Countries Millennium, what you have done since then is to say the least highly unethical? Is it also any wonder that this event has not returned to Ethiopia, and no such event will ever return to Ethiopia, if this is how The Ministry of Culture and Tourism conducts Business with the international Community.
Mohamouda Gass your state Minister Mohamouda Gass even flew to London England met with me in 2007 and introduced me to the Ethiopian Ambassador to UK and Mohamouda Gass gave his word and gurantee regarding Paying for this event but till now your Administration is not wiling to pay us a single penny after geting the servicceIn spite of the wonderful Global platform for the promotion of Ethiopian Culture and Tourism we presented to The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, your subordinate State Minister and staff have killed it of, buy abuse of Office and trust, and surprisingly despite your capacity as the head of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, you stand by and just say you don't know what is going on, and refuse to take any responsibility or initiate any steps to resolve this outstanding issue?
Is it any wonder how Miss World and Miss Universe have been going strong for over 50 years, but the one time an International beauty pageant was held in Ethiopia for the first time in History it was killed of by a combination of Greed, short sightedness, deliberate financial mismanagement and gross incompetence by very Ministry that is mandated to promote Ethiopian Culture Tourism, maybe The Ministry of Culture and Tourism have something bigger in the pipe line for 2009, but if The Ministry of Culture and Tourism can't honestly handle just 37 International beauty Queens coming to Ethiopia to celebrate your Millennium without making a such big mess of it where 18 months later The Ministry of Culture and Tourism have not paid a penny and instead chooses to cry poverty, It is sincerely doubtful that the Ministry of Culture and Tourism can manage anything bigger. may I respectfully point out that this is the reason this event was not held in Ethiopia again last year. Poverty is not a badge one wears with pride or delight.
Once again we call on you to respect your position as an Ethiopian Government Minister and act with the highest amount of Ethics, Integrity and honour that comes with such a position, business must always be conducted at the highest level of transparency and ethics..
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism is not staffed with Taxi drivers and Shoe shine boys all used to and looking to Hustle foreigners out of their money and make a quick buck off them, so kindly see that this matter is settled without any further excuses or delays or the need to go to litigation Enough is enough and enough respect and patience has been given to The Ministry of Culture and Tourism to settle this matter. ignoring all our communications will simply not suffice anymore.
Budget deficit or not, there is no reason why since 2007 and 18 months later The Ministry of Culture and Tourism has not paid us even a single penny unless, The Ministry of Culture and Tourism and your State Minister never intended to pay for the service in the first place, and this was a just carefully planned elaborate deception all along.
However thankfully we have documented everything for the world to see if need be. I trust that will not be necessary?
Dr Jeff Lee
Ethiopian Life Foundation