20 August 2009

Media Release: FRETILIN demands Gusmao come clean on road contracts



Media Release

Dili, 19 August 2009

FRETILIN demands Gusmao come clean on road contracts

De facto Prime Minister Gusmao's plan to hand out road contracts to chosen companies without calling tenders is unacceptable and probably in breach of the procurement law, FRETILIN'S leader in the Timor-Leste parliament, Aniceto Guterres, said today.

Speaking to journalists in Dili today Mr Guterres said Mr Gusmao outlined the plan at a meeting with selected businessmen at his Dili office on Tuesday, 17 August.

He called on Mr Gusmao to explain the proposal to parliament.

"This latest contract proposal resembles the way Mr Gusmao handed out rice contracts, and we know what a scandal that has become. Even the government referred to it as 'Ricegate'," Mr Guterres said.

"We have seen a rice supply contract worth more than US$14 million go to the Trez Amigos company owned by Germano da Silva, an official in Mr Gusmao's own party; rice contracts go to Prima Food and Olifante, two companies partly-owned by Mr Gusmao's relatives; and other contracts awarded to spouses and daughters of senior ministers in his government," Mr Guterres said.

Mr Guterres told parliament this week that at the 17 August meeting Mr Gusmao proposed the contractors themselves prepare the scope of the works projects, propose their own budgets, sign contracts by 30 August 2009 and finish work before the end of this year.

Mr Guterres said even the Minister for Infrastructure who attended the meeting agreed it was impossible to complete these projects by the end of this year.

"The government has already had big problems with companies under performing on road works. The current roads budget is being squandered and as a result the condition of our roads are rapidly deteriorating," Mr Guterres said.

"Mr Gusmao's plan appears to be a knee jerk and ill conceived way to try to spend money that they are late on spending and to respond to public criticism that rural roads are worse than ever. We all want roads improved, but in a properly planned and programmed manner, not in this way without probity and transparency in procurement and without assuring quality of the works."

Mr Guterres said the government should not hand out any more road contracts until parliament is given details of the plan, in order to avoid more irregularities and illegalities regarding government contracts.

In June this year Timor-Leste's anti corruption Ombudsman delivered ten investigation reports to the Prosecutor General's Office for further legal action, including criminal investigations, regarding breaches of the law by civil servants and the Justice Minister Lucia Lobato, and Finance Minister Emilia Pires.

For further information contact Jose Teixeira on +670 728 7080

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