Dili: Sunday, March 1, 2009
Gusmao govt claims 'confidentiality' to avoid corruption investigation
"FRETILIN MPs and MPs from other parties were stunned and appalled when the
de facto Deputy Prime Minister, Jose Luis Guterres, claimed in parliament
on Thursday 20th February, that some government contracts are
'confidential', and so details and copies will not be disclosed to
parliament", said FRETILIN's parliamentary leader , Aniceto Guterres to
journalists in Dili today.
The de facto Deputy PM said that the government could not allow parliament
or MPs access to the contracts because "as we all know contracts have
clauses in them which state that the agreement are confidential to the
parties", and that excluded the parliament and or MPs.
He made the statement during a heated public hearing by the Parliament's
Committees A and C, who are holding public consultations on the draft
"We can legislate all we like to fight corruption, but the Deputy PM's
statement confirms that there is a huge gap between Gusmao's rhetoric and
the reality of his governance. He has no serious commitment to fighting
corruption. Despite all the hype of reform and fighting corruption, he
prefers to govern without being held accountable and without being in the
least bit transparent with regard to government contracts.
"We simply ask the following - if his government can sign agreements with
'confidentiality' clauses that he uses to justify withholding disclosure to
parliament, what hope will any anti-corruption committee or watchdog have?
None, that's what," said Aniceto Guterres.
FRETILIN has proposed a new law to give parliament legal powers and
appropriate procedures to undertake extensive public inquiries of an
investigative nature into cases involving allegations of official corruption, collusion
"But we also want the functions of the existing anti-corruption watchdog,
the Ombudsman for Human Rights and Justice, to be strengthened, including
granting it the powers that have been proposed for the Anti-Corruption
Commission. We think the Ombudsman's office has developed capacity and
experience that will be lost, and we should reinforce it instead of creating
a new institution which will struggle to get up and running now," said Guterres.
"The Gusmao Government has an unimpressive track record in failing to have
allegations properly investigated and for not cooperating with the Ombudsman.
This window-dressing exercise of legislating to establish an anti-corruption
commission will do nothing to advance the fight against corruption in our
country. Gusmao has no political will to make it happen, so we fear it will
not happen in reality under this government," said Guterres.
Guterres listed the formal requests that FRETILIN and other parties have
made for details of and copies of government contracts, but for which no
response has been forthcoming despite months passing. They include:
1. Documents regarding the purchase of Luxury 4 Wheel drive for MPs,
which has been opposed by FRETILIN and the National Unity Party;
2. Contracts for international and national advisors employed by the
Ministry of Finance, including those of political appointees;
3. Documents for the contract awarded by the government for the
acquisition and installation of a second-hand heavy fuel oil power station;
4. Contract for the acquisition of two navy patrol boats from a Chinese
company, which was awarded without a tender;
5. Documents relating to the acquisition and importation of US$48
million worth of rice for food security;
6. Agreements and / or MOUs signed by the government with energy
companies to grant marketing and / or other rights relating to petroleum
from the Greater Sunrise field and the development of that field.
"It is as if the contracts involve dealings of a private nature, involving
their own private money, which of course they do not. This in effect,
prevents our people, through us as their elected representatives, having
access to documents and details regarding transactions involving the
people's money, and thereby preventing the parliament from exercising
effective oversight of public finances.
"This is both illegal and unconstitutional in our view. On public finances,
the government is constitutionally and legally accountable to the national
parliament. Gusmao has thwarted that role of parliament", said Guterres.
FRETILIN has requested numerous investigations by the Ombudsman, that
resulted in recommendations made to the government for action, but there has
been no follow up. One such case is the MOU signed by the Minister for
Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries on the 15th of January 2008, granting
100,000 hectares to an Indonesian Company, and over
which there was substantial public controversy reported in the national and
"Back on October 23 last year, the Ombudsman found that the Minister had not
followed the law, especially the Investment Law, and recommended that the
agreement be terminated and the company notified. There was a finding of
'maladministration', which is serious," said Guterres.
"Had such a finding been made against a civil servant of conduct of similar
severity, that civil servant could well be dismissed. Yet to date there has
been nothing forthcoming from the government as to what action has been
taken. But this is the way this government does things," added Guterres.
"We were lucky to have had unofficial access to that particular MOU and other
documents from non-government sources, such as the one regarding the de facto
PM's award of a US$14.7 million rice importation contract to his 'mate', Mr
Germano da Silva. It might have been branded 'confidential' too had we asked for
it formally. Then we would not have been able to know the details to have it
investigated, as it is right now being investigated by the Ombudsman. What
will Gusmao do if the Ombudsman finds some fault with his actions? Will he
act in accordance with his own rehtoric and resign," asked Guterres.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION, CONTACT JOSE TEIXEIRA M.P.: +670 728 7080