18 July 2008

FRETILIN opposes Decree Law creating Economic Stabilization Fund


Media Release July 18, 2008

"Today FRETILIN expresses great concern about the Economic Stabilisation Fund proposed in the revised budget, which in our view is full of illegalities and lacks transparency."

This statement was made by the FRETILIN Parliamentary Leader, Aniceto Guterres, in a media release yesterday, July 17. The Decree Law was approved by the Council of Ministers and proclaimed by the President of the Republic, Ramos-Horta, on July 14. FRETILIN called on MPs in the government coalition to join it in voting against the proposed law, as they did recently over the proposed firearms law.

Guterres added: “Though there are a lot of areas for concern in this revised budget proposal, the Economic Stabilization Fund is the most worrying because it involves the withdrawal of a large amount of money from the Petroleum Fund without sufficient legal control.

“Although the president of the republic proclaimed the Decree Law, it is yet to be published and come into force. In the meantime the de facto government is seeking the approval of the parliament in its revised budget proposal to withdraw an amount of USD$240 million, which it would spend under this law, which does not detail clearly the legal and financial mechanism for procurement, disbursement and accounting for the funds in a transparent and accountable manner. So much money, representing the total of the Timor-Leste state budget between 2002 and 2005, to be managed simply by a law made up of one and a half pages and 8 sections.

“FRETILIN opposes this Decree Law and the proposal to take these funds from the Petroleum Fund in this way. Among other reasons, we strongly suspect it is nothing more than an attempt to withdraw funds from the Petroleum Fund in a non-transparent and irresponsible manner.

The objectives of the Decree Law, set out in Article 2, are the procurement and distribution of food for food security, fuels and building materials by the government. But the Decree Law does not establish the procedures, rules and mechanisms for the procurement, administration and financial control of the funds or the distribution of the acquired stock in a transparent or accountable manner. Sections 4, 5 and 6 state that these vital transparency and accountability issues will be dealt with by ‘appropriate regulations to be approved.’

“With all due respect, this demonstrates that the de facto government does not regard our peoples' parliament with seriousness and respect,” said Aniceto Guterres.

“We have to ask, what did this de facto government have in mind when it put to this parliament a proposal to approve such a large amount of money to be spent without the appropriate legal and administrative rules and procedures being set out in the law that purports to establish it? How are we, who are asked to approve this large amount of money and who are constitutionally mandated to oversee and hold the government accountable for its spending according to the laws of the land, going to be able to do our job, given that we are not informed of the rules and mechanisms to hold them accountable by?

“This also leads us to think that the de facto government merely intends to use the funds the parliament approves as a slush fund without controls or accountability. It leads us to think that there will be even less procurement through open public tenders in accordance with the applicable procurement law, to procure such large amounts of foodstuffs, fuel and building materials, than there is at the moment. We are led to think that procurement contracts for these will simply be given directly, without open public tenders, to their friends and political allies, just as the recently publicized US$14 million rice procurement contract, which has been widely questioned. This rice procurement process was questioned even by members of the CNRT party in parliament, and the de facto government has thus far not fully explained or justified it to the satisfaction of the public or to our satisfaction.

“It is because of this that FRETILIN says that it will oppose this attempt to withdraw funds from the Petroleum Fund just to allocate contracts to friends and allies of the de facto government.

“With this attempt this AMP government has demonstrated yet again that they are not serious about executing and managing the peoples’ money with seriousness, responsibility, and transparency.

“We have already seen with important dealings that have been made public that they hide things. The agreement proposing to allocate large tracts of land to a foreign company to cultivate sugarcane for bio fuels was hidden for months, despite repeated requests for the agreement to be made public. The agreement to grant the sole and exclusive rights to a foreign oil company to market Sunrise gas remains hidden from the public at the government’s insistence that it is a ‘government secret’, despite requests to make it public. The contract to purchase luxury cars for members of parliament has been hidden from us again, despite requests that they be made available to opposition parties. Now, it’s worse, with an extremely large fund of USD$240 million they are not disclosing how they will spend these funds in regulations yet to be approved.

“FRETILIN already knows that there are parties and MPs who are prepared to exercise their conscience to oppose this proposal. We appeal to these well intended Timorese in our national parliament who otherwise vote with the AMP, who follow the government’s policy orientations, to join us in opposing this proposal that is not in the interests of our people. Just as we did with the gun laws some weeks ago, we ask you to join us in exercising your consciences and vote in the interests of the welfare of our people, the future of this nation, the peace and stability deserved by our people, instead of simply following the path that is not transparent, and will be detrimental to our nation and people.

“FRETILIN agrees with the objective of helping our people to meet the current global food and fuel crisis, but will not support courses of action that are not transparent and accountable, and which serve only to benefit a very few at the expense of our people, who will continue to stay poor and go hungry. During the budget debate FRETILIN will propose measures to confront the hardship faced by our people with seriousness, responsibility and transparency.”

For further information: FRETILIN parliamentary media officer - Nilva Guimaraes +670 734 0389

Post sponsored by East Timor Law Journal

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