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13 January 2009

FRETILIN seeks investigation of vehicle purchases and opposes pay rises for MPs

FRENTE REVOLUCIONÁRIA DO TIMOR-LESTE INDEPENDENTE

FRETILIN

Media Release

Dili: January 14, 2009

FRETILIN seeks investigation of vehicle purchases and opposes pay rises for MPs

FRETILIN has asked Timor Leste's ombudsman to investigate the Ministry of Finance's purchase of vehicles for each of the country's 65 members of parliament.

FRETILIN's letter of request to Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice Dr. Sebastiao Dias Ximenes says the purchasing contract worth more than US$2 million was apparently awarded without any competitive bidding process.

And while the contract specified purchase of Toyota Land Cruiser Prados, the cheaper Pajero model was actually delivered.

FRETILIN's leader in parliament, Aniceto Guterres said today the letter to the ombudsman on January 9 included copies of a contract signed by the director of parliament and a letter from the Vice President of parliament, Mr. Vicente Guterres, advising Minister for Finance Ms. Emilia Pires that parliament had authorised a Dili-based Korean-owned company Midori Motors Company Ltd to purchase 65 "Toyota, type Land Cruiser Prado, LJ120 R/L GKMEE 3.0D, 4 cylinder, 5-door, Manual Transmission" at a total price of US$2,171,000.

"This was a single source contract without a tender process or any other competitive bidding process that we know of, as required by law," Guterres said. "And why were Pajeros delivered rather than the more expensive Prados, which were ordered?"

"Our suspicions are heightened by the fact that we chased the president of the parliament, Mr. Fernando Araujo Lasama in the parliament and in the media for copies of these contracts and were repeatedly denied them – a blatant attempt to prevent us exercising our constitutional duty as MPs to monitor and oversee expenditure of public money. We got copies of the contracts in the end through other means," said Guterres.

He said FRETILIN publicly opposed the purchase of the fully maintained vehicles for every MP as an extravagant waste of public funds which would be better spent on development projects.

"MPs already get a salary much higher than most of our people of US$1,200 per month which includes travel allowance and other allowances.

"Under the Gusmao administration, salaries and other benefits to government members have risen to six or seven times those paid to members of the previous FRETILIN government. Ministers have three cars at their personal and official disposal. This sort of extravagance has
created similar expectations amongst the de facto government's parliamentary allies.

"Now the government is in the process of stitching up a deal, so that the budget proceeds smoothly through parliament without a revolt from alliance parties. Alliance MPs are seeking during the current budget debate to almost triple an MP's salary for MPs to as much as US$3,300 per month – about seven times the salary of MPs during the previous
parliament.

"We disagreed with buying the cars, and we strongly disagree with the increase in salaries. This government is well and truly infected by the oil curse we had been trying to avoid."

Guterres appealed to those MPs in the ruling alliance uneasy with this blatant grab for more money and benefits to join FRETILIN and its parliamentary allies in voting against further pay rises for MPs.

Guterres repeated FRETILIN's collective commitment to not accept the cars, which other MPs have already started to receive and use. "We will do the same with the same salaries," he said.

For information contact: Jose Teixeira MP on +670 728 7080

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