The SMH cited a a spokeswoman for the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade saying the Canberra government “took allegations of corruption seriously and was working closely with the East Timorese government to increase accountability”. The unnamed spokeswoman said the Australian aid programme to Timor-Leste was carefully monitored to “prevent and detect fraud”. The Fretilin oppositionhas spearheaded these allegations and is already channelling protests. According to Allard, citing documents obtained by Fretilin:
Mr Gusmão awarded a $US3.5 million ($4.4 million) contract for rice imports to Prima Foods, a company Fretilin says is partly owned by his daughter, Zenilda. The contract was awarded under a $US45 million government program to import basic foodstuffs.The allegations first surfaced in stories by Radio Australia reporters Steve Holland and Stephanie March, who reported yesterday:
Zenilda Gusmão, the prime minister's daughter, is listed as a Prima Food shareholder in East Timor's 2008 business registry.President José Ramos Horta has distanced himself from a scandal, involving the country's Prime Minister. He says it is not his business to intervene.
Radio Australia has also confirmed that the wife of another senior minister has profited from government tenders.
The country's procurement law bans "agents of the administration", politicians and bureaucrats from awarding government contracts to businesses associated with close family members.
The deputy leader of the opposition Fretilin party, Arsenio Bano, alleges it is a blatant example of corruption in the Prime Minister's Office and called for the Prime Minister's resignation.
"It's absolutely a strong indication of corruption, he has violated Timor Law, and before it goes to the courts the prime minister should resign," Mr Bano said.
Gusmão was unavailable for comment. The Prime Minister's daughter, Zenilda Gusmão, declined to comment.
However, a spokeswoman for the government confirmed to Radio Australia that Zenilda Gusmão was a shareholder of Prima Food.
The Gusmão coalition government has faced persistent corruption allegations.
The administration awarded a $US400 million contract to a Chinese Government-owned company to build two powerplants without calling for open tenders. Under the deal,
East Timor will import expensive and highly polluting heavy oil, even though it is rich in natural gas.
The husband of the Justice Minister, Lucia Lobato, was reportedly awarded a lucrative contract to rebuild a prison and supply uniforms for guards. Lobato, who is responsible for the prison system, is suing the journalist who broke the story.
Picture of Xanana Gusmão - Repúblika Banana.