15 March 2009

Allegations of Nepotism by East Timor Minister for Education


Edition No. 127- 2 March, 2009

Dili, Timor-Leste.

Minister for Education Stood Behind a Member of his Family to be Able to Remove Protector of the Peoples' Money

According to the Director of National NGO Labeh it would be a good example for us to follow the example set by Augusto Pereira to defend the interest of our people in ensuring their money is used properly and according to law instead of removing him from his position. In a letter written by Augusto to our nation's political leaders Augusto wrote, 'I would like to declare to our leaders that during my employment with the procurement service, I was able to safeguard state funds ensuring the proper expenditure of those funds, unlike the intent of the Minister for Education of his family and colleagues who do not understand the Procurement Law’s processes.' On the 18th of February 2009, at 0930 hours the Minister for education ordered Mrs. Ermelinda to telephone Mr. Antonio Pereira at a time when he was participating in training at the Ministry of Finance asking him to return quickly to the Ministry to have a meeting with the Minister. 'I went to the Ministry but was unable to meet with the His Excellency the Minister for Education but met instead with his chief of staff Mr. Alexandre Magno together with the AFLA Director Mr. Tarcisio do Carmo.' They told me 'from now (18/02/2009) you will not be able to any longer sit in the procurement office.' Then Mr. Magno told me that 'the Minister has already decided and you will have to move but not because of any specific case against you but you have become a victim by your superiors inside the Ministry of Education.'

'I underwent all the training regarding the Procurement process which was provided by the World Bank in other countries, and I also underwent training with the Ministry of Finance and Central Procurement when Minister Joao Cancio Freitas removed me from the position I had prepared myself fully to use to execute the budget in accordance with the Procurement Laws.'

Augusto Pereira has already written a letter to the Minister for Education demanding an explanation to him and the public as to his reasons for suddenly remove him from his position as Head of Decentralized Procurement Department of the Ministry of Education. Augusto complained to the national leaders that after having been sworn in on 28 May 2008, the Minister never listened to his advice regarding the technical implementation according to article 19 of Decree Law No. 10, which gives the powers for the work done by the Decentralized Procurement section, as well as Decree Laws No. 11, 12 and 14 which guide the work of the Procurement Service, “but the Minister only faulted me.”

'I personally am not aware of any wrong that I have done which has made me the subject of victimization by my superiors in the Ministry of Education. Because of this I ask the Minister to clearly explain to me, which of my superiors inside the Ministry has victimized me, and for what reason that superior of mine has not been subject to disciplinary proceedings.' Accusations have also arisen from staff in the ministry against their head regarding nepotism. 'This Ministry of Education seems to belong to one family only,' said a staff member from the ministry who did not want his name published in the newspaper because he feared the minister would sack him.

On Tuesday morning last week Tempo Semanal's journalist visited the Ministry of education to try to confirm the allegations against the Director of Accreditation and Schooling Administration, the AFLA Director and Head of Logistics. 'I cannot say anything with you because I have not been authorized to do so by the minister,' said the AFLA Director. The Head of Procurement Augusto Pereira was able to deny his Minister using Ministry of Education money outside the Ministry of Education’s responsibility. When the Minister for Education and his delegation visited Oecussi he promised to help buy a sofa for the Secretary of State for the Autonomous Region of Oecussi using Ministry of Education funds totaling US$922.82, from the company Wehale Unip. Lda. By memorandum the Minister requested the director of Financial Administration on 13/07/08 to reimburse that amount in accordance with the Minister’s request after having visited Oecussi. But the Head of Procurement Augusto Pereira rejected it saying, 'I rejected the reimbursement because the Minister's actions were wrong and breached the procurement law and other laws Mr. minister must know that the Secretary of State for the Autonomous Region of Oecussi falls under the Ministry of State Administration's structure and has his own budget.' According to the law, the minor capital budget for the Ministry of Education can only be used to acquire equipment for that Ministry and not for the Secretary of State for the Autonomous of Oecussi instead.

We have other evidence confirming the allegations that attempts were made to divert minor capital funds such as invoice AB36, AB37, AB38 with a total amount of $10,584 US for the maintenance of a Land Rover vehicle with registration number 02-017 and to repair a Yamaha motorbike DT175 with registration number 385 presented by the company Fomento Motor Workshop which was not signed nor dated and also overstated the number of staff who undertook this service. Because questions arose regarding this invoice, Augosto Pereira as the head of the Procurement Department on 02/07/08 himself went to the premises of the company to investigate, where he discovered that although this company only employs five workers, the invoice from the company stated that 10 to 15 people to repair the vehicle and 10 people serviced the Yamaha motorbike. 'The Procurement Department requested that the said company be audited. Before the results of the audit, Procurement would not process the payment,'demanded Augusto Pereira on the 10/07/08 to the Inspector General of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Antonio Sequeira Alves. 'I don’t know to where this audit has come but to this day I have not received any communication in response and therefore Procurement is yet to process it.' There is also an allegation against the younger sister of the Minister for Education who holds the position in the Ministry of Education as the Director for Accreditation and Education Administration, Ms. Idalina M da C Freitas, interfering with the work of Procurement by writing dispatches for full 100% payment to the company Bachy Transport Unipessoal which was engaged to carry 15,000 tables and 15,000 chairs from Dili to 11 districts throughout Timor including the island of Atauro. The dispatch from the Director of Accreditation and Education Administration on 30/06/08, stated 'the payment process for furniture equipment for the total of $69,600 to this company should be 100%.' Augusto Pereira alleges that Ms. Idalina asked that the payment of $69,600 to the company had to be for 100% and through Mr. Duarte who is a staff member in her Directorate who would in turn pay the company but I said this is in breach of the law and I will not accept it.'

On the commitment payment form signed by Mr. Samuel da Costa Alves as the person in charge of administration and Mr. Apolinario Magno, MBA as the authorizing department dated 16/04/08 was approved by Minister Joao Cancio Freitas on 21/04/08. During the execution period emerged instances which were not all together proper so the Procurement Department agreed to process the payment to the company Bachy Transport Unipessoal for the services they had already rendered and for payments to be made directly to the company’s bank account with the company requesting that the Ministry pay only $14,750. Precisely because of this n the 18/06/08 according to memo number 02/ME/ADM/APROVE/VI/2008 signed by the AFLA Director, Mr. Tarcicio do Carmo and the Director for Accreditation and Administration, Ms Idalina da Costa Freitas where the company Bachy Transport Unipessoal refunded the remaining money for the hire of transport for the total of $55,025 to the Head of Procurement to hold so as to be used for payment when all the equipment was transported.

“I managed to rescue these funds so that the equipment was fully transported or otherwise we would have paid the money out but the work would not have all been performed,” stated Augusto Pereira. In the month of December 2008 the Minister of Education signed another form for 11 payments for only one item of freight charges for the transport of tables and chairs to 11 districts, excluding the districts of Same and Atauro, for the total amount of $104,850 US. According to the procurement law the Ministry of Education itself can only execute amounts between US$1 to US$100,000 but the expenditure for vehicles on this freight charter already exceeded this amount so they divided them into separate amounts. “By rights our Ministry had already breached decree law number 10, 11 and 14 regarding decentralized procurement,” reported Augusto.

He also alleged that the Director for Accreditation and Administration that 'the total amount of the money on this form has to be paid to the company that won this tender.' But according to Augusto after having selected the 3 companies who had submitted their documents and price until the time the award was made to a company then after having selected the 3 companies that had submitted their documents and prices, in the end the award was given to the company that had submitted he low price of $104,850 US. The transport of the school materials to the districts continued and there was still money to pay for the transport. In February 2009 the Director of Accreditation and Administration requested an increase of 10 additional vehicles to transport tables and chairs form the warehouse to the districts but at that time the warehouse was empty except for material being stored from Unicef support which the Minister did not agree to receive for the school feeding program like beans, mung beans and noodles that had exceeded their use by date. Augusto explained that, 'sometimes the vehicles that were to be used to transport chairs and tables would return empty because the companies would find the warehouses empty so why would we need to hire additional vehicles?'

Tempo Semenal was also able to find a sample of beans and mung beans which were rotten but which were transported nonetheless to schools in the Lospalos area. The execution of the budget of the amount of $104,850 was not complete and there remained $71,210 US but the Department of Accreditation and Administration on 09/02/09 asked for the amount of $17,550 US to keep transporting equipment. 'In the meantime what happened to the money that was left over,' asked Augusto. It is because of this that some staff in the Ministry accused her of losing money. On the 21/02/09 Augusto Pereira opened the Ministry’s safe to return the wads of money such as the $71,210 which was left over from the $104,850 US, some money from the Office of Protocol in the amount of $1,920 US left over money from the transport of food stuffs for the school feeding program totaling $6,200 US, moneys for the community leaders which until now had not been paid out in the amount of $3,397 US and a cheque for the company Reslau which allegedly involved the Director of Accreditation and Education Administration which could not be paid out because until then they were unable to present proof in the amount of $7,400 US. 'They were stunned when they saw the wads of money inside the safe,' said Augusto pointing out the documents that were signed by the AFLA Director, Mr. Tarcicio Carmo for taking delivery of the money on 21/02/09.

Other information has emerged of suspected improper use of Ministry funds for the Minister's private benefit. There are receipts that exist for reimbursement of some monies to the Minister's wife for the rehabilitation of bedrooms for guards. But Ministry of Education staff allege that their Minister used this money to rehabilitate his private residence. 'This is merely technical because in fact it was used to rehabilitate the Minister's house.' Said Augusto.

According to a receipt that exists for the purchase of air conditioners to be installed in the Ministry of Education conference hall in Vila Verde but instead were installed in the Minister's private residence. 'We have already taken four air conditioners to be installed at the Minister’s residence and the last one on 18/02/09 when we took an air conditioner to the Minister's residence in Becusse said a staff member from the Ministry of Education who asked that this newspaper not publish his identity. According to this staff member the Vice Minister for Education at that time also asked that his house be repaired but because he was told that he would not be able to do so as it would be breaching the law they asked the Vice Minister for his understanding and his residence has not been repaired until now. According to Tempo Semenal’s own inspection of offices inside the some rooms in the Ministry of Education there are some wires hanging from the walls but the air conditioners not installed. But then when the Tempo Semenal journalist raised this issue with the Minister, the room used by the planning section of the Ministry of Education had an air conditioner installed just only a day after. There is also a payment received for the use of telephone in Becusse for which funds were used from the Ministry to pay for and which were approved by the AFLA Director on the 18/06/08, purchase of prepaid electricity, generator fuel each week. The documents show that the head of logistics and assets Mr. Jaime Borbosa Pinto indicated Mr. Gilberto Alamso Sousa to take deli very of the fuel for Ministry of Education generators but the said generators were broken down. According to documents obtained by newspaper they indicate that from September 2008 delivery was taken for fuel each week in the quantity of 50 liters that were used for the generator at the Minister’s residence in Becusse.

'My view is that our Minister's budget execution plan is not fixed and we have to merely respond to his promises,' said Augusto. He reported that 'According to the 2008 general budget plan there was no item for the purchase of motorbikes for school, so all of the CPVs which the Minister himself had approved and already sent to the Ministry of Finance in the end after the Minister had gone on district visits and made promises, when he returned he cancelled all the CPVs and made a mess of our work.' According to the budget plan for 2008 year the Ministry of Education did not have a plan to buy motorbikes but Minister Joao Cancio Freitas requested that a transfer be made from minor capital of eight directorates in the Ministry of Education for a total amount of $150,000 to buy 84 motorbikes. So according to the letter signed by the Minister himself on 09/06/08 to the Minister of Finance with reference number: 267/GM/ME/VI/2008 with reference transfer of funds and number 268/ME/GM/VI/2008 requested the transfer of funds and the cancellation of various FCPs from minor capital. 'This Minister has no fixed plan but all that this Minister has is that he likes to make promises so a whole bunch of CPVs which had been processed and approved by the Minister of Education, Mr. Joao Cancio Freitas had to be cancelled and all of our work was made difficult,' alleged Augusto Pereira against the former Republic of Indonesia public servant in Baucau during the Indonesian occupation period. In 2008 the Ministry of Education also did not have any plan to buy a mini laptop (reference documents 266/ME/GM/VI/08) but the Minister wanted to force them to buy one. Then after staff enquired on prices in Timor-Leste and Indonesia the Minister said that it was too expensive. According to what the Minister told his staff Augusto that a mini laptop costing $250; then Augusto said that the Minister accused him of trying to lose state money, 'whom did you share the remaining money with?'

The head of the Procurement Department also dressed his Minister down publically for not being interested in quickly sending support materials given by Unicef to repair schools that were in a situation of emergency. According to Unicef proposal documents signed by the Director General of the Ministry of Education Mr. Apolinarion Magno, MBA on 12/09/08 after having received report from his regional directors and Unicef itself. Unicef itself gave a positive response to the request to help with 15,039 sheets of iron roofing, 550 kilograms of 12 nails, 550 grams of 10 nails, more than 2000 5/7 wood panels, more than 1000 6/12 wood panels but these were “left sitting in the warehouse'. 'I don’t know why he did not want to authorize these materials to be delivered to the schools in remote areas because they were needed urgently, they were donated by Unicef based on the proposal which came from the Directors (region 1 Baucau, region 3 Maubisse and region 4 Maliana) until now are left sitting in the Fomento warehouse in Dili,' he said. So Augusto joked about his Minister saying, “our young students who attend school in the rain, wind and hot sun – you just have to suffer because Mr. Joao Cancio Freitas is still preparing his organizational structure which has not been complete and when he has done all that he will have this material delivered to you.'

'When Mr. Joao Cancio Freitas called me to ask me why we asked for materials from Unicef and to do what and who would transport it and who would do it he became angry and said to me 'stupid director', ordering me to get out of his office. I want to inform you that during this time Mr. Joao Cancio Freitas did not give importance to the work that I gave to him as the Minister of Education. He only liked to go here promising and go some where else making promises, but perhaps the Minister did not see that his attitude would breach the procurement laws.'

Augusto asked the President of the Republic Dr. Jose Ramos Horta, 'to call attention to Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao to control that actions of the Minister for Education Mr. Joao Cancio Freitas which are always breaching the procurement law and who cannot give a good example to other people, so that he not engage in bad administration and not breach the laws regulating the normal functions of government institutions.' Augusto suggested that it be better to replace the Minister for Education. 'Prime Minister Kay Rala Xanana Gusmao can seek out another Timorese who has the capacity and knows how to be a good example to substitute Mr. Joao Cancio Freitas who does not have the capacity.” He added 'if he continues to control the Ministry of Education then there will not be any changes because he likes to get in the way of people as he wishes because in recent months he has already obstructed some national directors for no clear reasons.'

According to information to which Tempo Semenal has had access we can confirm that a bunch of Directors have lost their positions and are inactive in the Ministry of Education although they continue to receive their salaries. The Directors who have been removed are the old Director of Financial Administration Mr. Marcelo Caetano Araujo, the Head of the Finance Department, Angelo Ximenes, the head of the Department of Primary Education, Ms Delfina Borges, the Head of the Department of Teachers' affairs, the National Director for Curriculum, Materials and Evaluation, Dr. Mateus dos Reis have already been removed and replaced and last of all Mr. Augusto Pereira the head of procurement department in the Ministry of Education.

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