31 December 2014

Customs Border Control in Timor-Leste: Potential for Corruption?

ETLJB 31 December 2014 - Timor-Leste’s borders have of late been getting a fair bit of attention from the media and Non Governmental Organizations. FM along with the UN have consistently labelled the emergence of transnational crime groups, using Timor-Leste as transit point for drugs and weapons, as one of the great threats to Timor-Leste’s Stability. Indeed there does seem some truth to this claim with media sources reporting on several recent cases where groups producing Sabu-Sabu (Methamphetamine) have been arrested either trying to smuggle it in, or producing it locally for the purpose of exporting it. At a time such as this, it is imperative that customs and border control staff are doing their job as effectively, efficiently and most importantly as cleanly as possible.

This why we here at Fundasaun Mahein have become distressed from reports we have been receiving from the border. Corruption and a lack of discipline seems to be rising among the border post guards, something that until quite recently has not been a problem.

A practice that Fundasaun Mahein has become aware of is that the border security guards will regularly not process some Visa On Arrival formsand, at the end of the day, divide the money that comes from this amongst themselves. If this is the attitude of the border control guards looking to make a quick buck how are we able to trust them when faced with a bribe from a criminal organization with much more money to spend?

These reports seems to indicate that the processes to reduce corruption are either not in place or very poorly monitored and therefore easy to exploit.

FM believes that a simple and easy way to monitor any corruption in the border is to compare the amount of new arrival forms with the amount of money received for a visa on arrival, any discrepancies would indicate that corruption has occurred.

FM is also suspicious from the displays of wealth from the customs department. It has become noticeable that the customs and immigration division is one of the best equipped divisions of the PNTL. While other divisions face pressures in getting the basic necessities such as decent quality uniforms, the customs department is noticeable in that it always has brand new cars and the best weapons and facilities.

In order to try and investigate these claims we here at FM have tried on numerous occasions to try and find statistics and information on the border security. This has been an ongoing process over the past few years and coincided with several other reports that FM has written regarding the border. Inevitably following the formal process with The PNTL Customs Division in order to gain this information seems to yield few results with the information that FM does receive being unreliable and inaccurate.

It is crucially important that the PNTL reports all of important information and makes it readily available to anyone that requests it in order to increase the oversight of the borders. This will ensure that greater transparency and accountability for customs and border control staff and any suspicions of corruption are reduced. This is imperative to the very stability of Timor-Leste and will help us ensure that the borders are protected and corruption reduced to defend us against the threat of transnational criminal organizations infiltrating our land. It is now time to protect that which we have fought so hard to gain.

FM Recommends the following

• For the customs division of The PNTL to publish all statistics and monitoring information and make them readily available to the public.

• For the customs division of The PNTL to increase oversight at all border posts to ensure there is less risk of corruption to occur

Source: http://www.fundasaunmahein.org/2014/12/05/customs-border-control-potential-for-corruption/ 
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