Meritocracy vs. Elitism in Ethiopian Civil Service: the Case of three (3) Selected Federal Ministries

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Addis Ababa University


The purpose of this study is to assess the status of merit based recruitment and the dimension of elitism in the Ethiopian Civil Service system and their impacts on organizational performance in the case of Ministry of Civil Service, Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology. In light of this, using qualitative approach, primary data collected through questionnaires administered and interviews conducted with secondary data from government documents, reports and proclamations reviews were used to make the paper sound. This study is limited to status of meritocracy and dimensions of elitism in the selected 3(three) federal ministries. In these ministry organizations, there are about 749 employees with the exception of security personnel, drivers and janitors. These are selected as target population for the study and using simple random sampling, 75 people (10% of the population) were selected to fill descriptive questionnaires [out of which only 69(92%) of them completed and returned these questionnaires]. Moreover using purposive non-probability sampling, 8 respondents of top management officials from the selected federal ministries and 8 key informants from political parties, scholars and practitioners in the civil service were conducted for interview. The collected data has been analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively using statements, tables and percentages. Survey findings and document analysis show that the Ethiopian civil service has clearly stated rules calling for merit based appointment. However key informants and questionnaire respondents revealed that, practically political membership and loyalty is given weight for advertized civil service jobs. Key informants also revealed that the ruling party EPRDF has established its own network throughout the civil service system to control the civil service for its own purpose. Document analysis and key informant interview showed that, staff appraisal is most of the time not based on competence to jobs. Furthermore key informant interview and questionnaire responses revealed that, some of the political elites fused in the civil service system are less competent. Survey finding also revealed that, political dominance in the civil service system is posing impediments for the organizational performance in the selected federal ministries. The researcher has concluded that merit based recruitment, promotion, transfer and remunerations are weakly practiced. There is high dominance of political elites in the civil service. These all negatively affect organizational performance in the selected federal ministries and the Ethiopian civil service in general. The researcher has finally recommended that, recruitment should be only merit based; political interference should be avoided from the civil service



Federal ministries