|Minister Pires & husband - Tempo Semanal|
TEMPO SEMANAL - Tuesday, 27 November 2012
There is a fresh allegation of Corruption, Collusion and Nepotism (referred to by the acronym "CCN”) against a senior member of the Fifth Constitutional Government.
The allegation is against the Minister for Finance Emilia Pires who whilst the Minister for Finance during the Fourth Constitutional Government approved payment from the budget to a company founded, owned and directed by her husband Warren McLeod.
It is suspected that the Minister for Finance Emilia Pires has breached section 32, Chapter 4 on Incompatibility of Decree Law on the Procurement System number 10/2005, that regulates Conflict of interest involving state officials.
All documents are held on this website and here on the Tempo Semanal Facebook page. "If the Minister for Finance shuts her eyes to allow her husband's company to obtain a government contract and worse, when it is done through a direct award without a tender, that is a mistake and with the intention of breaching the law," said Miguel Amaral V.F. Da Costa, a Dili university student.
The phenomenon of CCN is widely questioned in the community. However, many do not believe that disease of nepotism and collusion results could touch the Finance Minister who is always promoting and loudly espousing transparency and accountability.
"I did not expect Minister Emilia Pires could allow her husband's company to win a government contract,"Da Costa say.
He further lamented that it was done under the category of it being justified as an emergency situation.
He added that, "in the month of February during a time of political uncertainty when some members of government might have not been feeling confident in their positions, so they could fall down and side step the existing laws."
"I think the Finance Minister's husband can get contracts. But, it must be by way of a competitive bidding process, and not by single source that breaches the procurement law and that can bee seen as coming from "collusion" to give each other projects to their own families," da Costa added.
According to documents dated 3 February 2012, the former Vice Minister of Health in the AMP, Madalena F.N.H. Costa Soares, sent a letter of request to the Minister of Finance, Emilia Pires whereby she requested an additional budget to buy recurrent needs for the hospitals, because if what was not included in the 2012 budget of the state.
"I want to request to Your Excellency the Minister to approve an additional budget to acquire equipment according to the annexed list," was written in the letter signed by the Vice Minister for Health.
According to the annexed list signed by the National Director of NALA, the head of the medical equipment management unit together with the Vice Minister of Health, Madelena Hanjan, proposed an additional budget of US$2,004,100.00 to supply item 17 to the Hospitals and health centers.
More ironic is that from the annexed list sent by the Vice Minister for Health Madalena Hanjan to the Finance Minister Emilia Pires, detailed as the first five points on the list of items to be acquired items that were to be supplied by the company Mac's Metalcraft, which is owned and the director of which is one Warren MacLeod who is the husband of the Finance Minister Emilia Pires.
"These items to be acquired should not have been classed as emergency items. They just invented this criteria," Deputy Anti-Corruption Commissioner Jose Neves said.
According to the quotation documents presented by Warren MacLeod, the director of the company Mac's Metalcraft, appears item number one to number five for a cost of US$895,140.00 which was defined within the category of an emergency acquisition, so the Ministry Of Health just awarded it directly to the Finance Minister's husband, without following a tender process, arousing suspicion that there had been some coordination between some members of government to invent the emergency criteria for the acquisition, thus facilitating the handing of the contract by a member of government to the family of another member of government.
Neves said that although single sourcing is allowed, before entering into that phase, the normal procedures that are set out in the procurement laws so as to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Despite section 92 of the procurement law stipulating that direct awarding of contracts is allowed, it is not wide enough to justify awarding the contract directly to the company Mac's Metalcraft as the supplier of equipment for hospitals and health centers, under section 94 of the decree law on procurement, as preferred by some decision makers, justifying it under the category of an emergency procurement.
But the deputy Anti Corruption Commissioner Jose Neves again rejected it saying, "The procurement of beds does fall under an emergency."
As is set out in the documents that access by Tempo Semanal, the Finance Minister herself had knowledge of the proposal that her husband's company be contracted to be the supplier of beds that were determined to be within the category of an emergency.
The proposal letter written by the Vice Minister for Health Madalena Hanjan to the Prime Minister Xanana, was also CC to the Finance Minister. However, Emilia did not put a tops to it but simply ignored the fact enabling her husband to be warded the project concerned.
"When one fails to distinguish a conflict of interest, then one breaches the law," Jose Neves said. Jose added that, "That is wrong. The budget involved was very large, and they are in a close family relationship."
The company referred to is owned by the Finance Minister's husband, so according to the deputy Anti Corruption Commissioner, "there is definitely a conflict of interest, because these cases of an emergency or single sourcing have to meet certain criteria according to the procurement law."
Many times state officials put real emergency cases such as those needing medical treatment through the normal procurement process. But, cases that do not involve emergencies, they invent an emergency according to the procurement law. “That's wrong.”
He joked saying, "someone dying needing a bed which is not available, that is real case of an emergency. But just to buy a bed, that is not an emergency. You must go through the normal process."
On the 8th of February 2012 the Finance Minister Emilia Pires responded to the request for additional budget (dated 03/02/2012) that had been sent from the Vice Minister for Health in the AMP Government, Madalena Hanjan, which had also been CCd to the then Minister for Health, Nelson Martins, writing, "with this approval, your Ministry can now proceed to start the implementation of this transaction. Please note that the approval was given on the premise that the request funding will not be used for any other purpose."
This newspaper has already tried to obtain a comment from the finance Minister but has been unable to speak to her.
Tempo Semanal tried to contact through her mobile telephone number but our calls were not answered, so this newspaper left some questions with the Minister on her official mobile phone number's mailbox with the number 772300XX.
But, unfortunately no response has been forthcoming until the date of publication. Tempo Semanal was able to speak with the Director of the company Mac's Metalcraft, Warren MacLeod who is the husband of the Finance Minister, Emilia Pires, who had the good fortune of being able to provide a quotation for the supply of equipment to Timor-Leste hospitals.
"That is right, I supplied some materials to the hospital and i know what you are asking about," said Warren MacLeod via the telephone with Tempo Semanal. Warren acknowledged to tempo Semanal that, "that is right," this project fell into the category of an emergency.
The documents that Tempo Semanal have been able to access show that Warren Mc Leod provided a quotation to the Ministry of Health on 24/02/2012 just as his wife, the Minister for Finance approved the budget funds that the Vice Minister for Health had requested.
"I had been contacted a while before (before the emergency contract was awarded)," Warren said with a voice sounding a little nervous. But, after having drawn his breath, Warren MacLeod said, "in truth I have already supplied some equipment last year. I was informed (contacted) by an advisor in the Ministry. This person's name is Bruce. He is some sort of advisor to the Minister, who initially asked for a quotation last year, and so I already supplied some equipment last year. Then later they wanted me to supply some more equipment this year."
According to some sources the advisor to the Ministry of Health with the name mentioned by Warren finished his contract last year.
"This does not have anything to do with anyone else, except the persons who contacted me. if anyone has any interest in my equipment, I am happy to compete with any other quotation," Warren explained.
According to company registration documents, Mac's Metalcraft was registered in Melbourne, Victoria, Australian in 2008, the year after Warren MacLeod's wife became the Minister for Finance in the Timor-Leste government.
Referring to the approved budget for the Ministry of Health in the General Budget of the State for 2012, the former Vice Minister for Health said that there was no budget appropriation for recurrent expenditure needs for hospitals or health centers, so they had to write to the Minister for Finance to make available some additional budget funds.
Immediately after the Minister for Finance had approved the request for additional budget funds to be paid from the contingency funds, on the 24/02/2012, Warren MacLeod, the Director of the Company Mac's Metalcraft provided a quotation to Agapito da Costa, a procurement official in the Ministry of Health.
Following this the Vice Minister for Health wrote to Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, with a CC to the Finance Minister on 21 March 2012. Madalena Hanjan proposed that the company Mac's Metalcraft should be the supplier of urgently needed hospital beds, and that this company had already supplied quality beds previously.
But on Friday (23/11/2012), Tempo Semanal was able to obtain film footage of 80 beds supplied by Mac's Metalcraft that are still stored in the storage building of the Guido Valadares National Hospital in Dili.
More ironic is that in February the Vice Minister for health used a letter from the Dili Hospital Director requesting as a case of emergency two haemodialisis machines and two beds, which then enabled the company owned by a husband of the member of Government to profit from the budget of the state..