07 August 2009

FRETILIN Media Release: PM Must Act on Ombudsman's Report



FRETILIN FRENTE REVOLUCIONARIO DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE Media Release Dili, 6 August 2009 Gusmao must sack ministers following ombudsman’s report

De facto Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao must sack his Justice and Finance Ministers for what Timor-Leste's Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice called "abuse of power" and “strong indicia of conspiracy and corruption”, FRETILIN said today.

FRETILIN parliamentary leader Aniceto Guterres said that in his unpublished report dated 2 July 2009 the ombudsman Mr Sebastiao Ximenes recommended that Mr Gusmao “take action against” both Justice Minister Lucia Lobato and Finance Minister Emilia Pires.

Mr Ximenes also recommended that the Prosecutor General’s office investigate the awarding of contracts and payments for the renovation of two prisons, carried out by a company directed by a relative of Ms Lobato.

Mr Ximenes launched an investigation following a request by FRETILIN MPs in June 2008 and media reports of allegations of corruption.

Mr Ximenes concluded:

“ 1. There has been abuse of power by the Minister for Justice because she opted to implement single source direct contracting for the rehabilitation works, not following the general rules as set out in article 92 of the Procurement Law.”

“ 2. There was abuse of power by the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Finance because they failed to duly observe the rules and procedures of procurement, which stipulate that when there is no BOQ (Bill of Quantities) certificate for payment by Public Works, procurement should not make payment, however, the Minister issued an official memorandum to procurement ordering the payment be made.”

“ 3. There was nepotism involved in the decision to contract the company UGC as the contractor because one of the company directors is a relative of the Minister (read: for Justice)."

Mr Guterres said both ministers now face multiple serious allegations of misconduct and potential illegalities, especially regarding procurement.

“The Justice Minister has problems with her husband's dealings as a contractor, she herself has serious unresolved allegations of corruption and nepotism regarding other projects in her ministry such as the Becora Prison and the purchase of uniforms for prison guards in
which third parties have alleged that she colluded with them to essentially give herself the contract.

"The Finance Minister has been clouded by the 'jobs for mates' scandal, including evidence that she signed two employment contracts knowing that two of her friends had falsely stated that they had the required academic qualifications, when in fact, they did not.

“Now an independent and impartial investigation by the country's constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog has found sufficient evidence that Ms Lobato and Ms Pires abused their powers and recommended action against them.’

Mr Guterres said a law-abiding and politically responsible prime minister would have no option but to remove both ministers.

“In other cases Mr Gusmao has not hesitated to order action be taken against low–ranking police officers and civil servants subject to nothing more than allegations of misconduct.

“However we doubt he will take any action against these ministers because it would further undermine his already fragile four–party coalition.

"His anti-corruption statements are nothing but empty rhetoric.

We will continue to hold him in high regard for his historic and heroic contribution to our people’s liberation struggle, but his credibility is now at stake as his political colleagues are drawn, and
draw him, into this mire,” Mr Guterres said.

For further information please contact Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

East Timor Land Law and Policy Information Centre

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