19 July 2017

Advance planning … just in case

Timor-Leste voters will go to the polls this Saturday to elect 65 Members of Parliament, who will choose a Prime Minister and the country’s Seventh Constitutional Government. Although most observers do not expect major shifts in the current political line-up, the current government is awarding two major contracts now to safeguard benefits for a few, just in case voters take control of the public purse strings away from those who currently hold power.

On 27 April, the National Procurement Commission announced its intention to award more than $90 million in contracts to supply generator fuel to the Hera and Betano electric power plants for the next two years. In the past, such contracts have been awarded for one year at a time, but with a possible impending change of government, two years is safer for the suppliers.

Although the National Procurement Commission declined to respond to La’o Hamutuk’s request for more information about this tender, the bids from the two winning companies were so close as to raise concerns about possible collusion. We have no additional evidence of illicit actions, but Esperança Timor Oan (ETO, headed by Nilton Gusmão, Xanana’s nephew) won the larger contract for Hera with a bid that was 0.13% lower than the bid from SACOM Energy (headed by Abilio Araújo, a former FRETILIN leader currently campaigning for PLP). SACOM won the Betano contract, bidding 1.8% lower than ETO. Pertamina also bid for both contracts, bidding more than 10% above the other two companies.

Another tender was announced on 14 July, with the National Procurement Commission inviting bids to supply 68 Toyota Prado Land Cruisers to Parliament. Although the tender is open until 14 August and the price in the winning bid is not yet known, the 2017 State Budget allocates $3.2 million to purchase vehicles for Parliament this year (up from $86 thousand in 2016 and $22 thousand in 2015), so apparently each car will cost more than $45,000.

Five years ago, Parliament spent $4 million to buy new cars for each of its Members to use, and the Members were allowed to purchase the old ones for personal use at bargain prices. We don’t know how many of those cars are still on the road, but the pattern is repeating. The National Procurement Commission was more helpful this time, and supplied the detailed bidding documents, including this specification. On 27 July, the National Procurement Commission held a pre-bid meeting and amended the documents.

Although announcements about these tenders have been published in local newspapers and on the Ministry of Finance website, the news has not been reported in commercial or social media, and La’o Hamutuk think it is important for voters to know.

Timor-Leste’s oil revenues have nearly ended, and the $16 billion saved in the Petroleum Fund is being depleted. When voters go to the polls, we encourage them to support parties which envision a sustainable, diversified, equitable economy for all of Timor-Leste’s people.

No comments:

Post a Comment