Corruption prevention conference in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste Conference panel

Corruption Prevention Conference in Timor-Leste panel. Left to right: Moderator: Dr. José Teixeira, Lawyer; Ms. Janine McGruddy, Chief Executive Officer, Transparency International New Zealand; Dr. Artidjo Alkostar, Judge of the Supreme Court of Indonesia; Prof. Jorge Cláudio Bacelar Gouveia, Professor of Law of the University Nova of Lisbon; Dr. Dionísio Babo Soares, Phd, Minister of State, Coordinator of State Administration Affairs and Justice and Minister of State Administration.

Timor-Leste – the challenge of corruption to nation building and the need to re-awaken its revolution leaders to the fight against corruption

Transparency International New Zealand was very honoured to be invited to present a paper in early February at a conference in Timor-Leste titled Parliament's Commitment to Preventing and Suppressing Corruption - Preventing Corruption vs Rights, Liberties and Guarantees.

Statue of Nicolau Lobato

Statue of Nicolau Lobato, a hero of the country’s independence movement and, briefly, its President. He was killed in 1978, three years into the 24-year Indonesian occupation that thwarted the former Portuguese colony’s independence until 2002.

The invitation came from President of the National Parliament H. E. Adérito Hugo da Costa, a leader with serious concerns on the effects of corruption on nation building in Timor-Leste.

TINZ was represented at the conference by its Chief Executive Officer, Janine McGruddy.

The conference was an ambitious undertaking for the young government. The objectives of the conference are listed below.

  • To reinforce the interest of citizens in fighting corruption.
  • Encourage the determination of competent institutions in decision-making and action to prevent and suppress corruption.
  • To raise the level of citizens' awareness of the content of the United Nations Convention against Corruption and its relationship with the national legal order.
  • To know the state of corruption in the country and the implementation of public policies in the field of prevention and repression of corruption.
  • Identify the obligations to criminalize conduct contained in the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
  • To assess compliance to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption within the limits set by the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste corruption challenges

The challenges facing anti-corruption efforts in Timor-Leste are quite formidable.

Corruption is a major challenge for any new developing nation. The opportunities for corruption are plentiful in a new, inexperienced and rapidly growing public administration. Timor-Leste in particular is dealing with considerable oil industry financial inflows, providing a ready source of funds for illegal activities.

Anti-corruption efforts

Since achieving independence in 2002 through determination, bravery and a strong desire to improve the lot of the people; Timor-Leste has made progress in its fight against corruption.

Fundamental values of democracy and the rule of law, including transparency and the integrity of public office, are explicitly enshrined in their constitution.

Timor-Leste is a signatory of the United Nations Convention on Anti-Corruption, making good progress on the convention's recommendations. Consistent with UNCAC they have:

  • stablished a dedicated agency to combat corruption in the form of the Anti-Corruption Commission;
  • worked with UNDP and other NGO’s on educating public and public servants by developing resources including television programmes on the misuse of public property by public servants, and explaining the role and work of Timor-Leste’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC);
  • published an Anti-Corruption Dictionary and a Strategic Guidance for Outreach Education for public servants.

These efforts have all helped shed light on the illegality and impact of corruption on Timor-Leste’s economy.

Ongoing work on whistle-blowing and freedom of information legislation, the development of e-portals for budgets and procurement in some government departments, indicate they are on the right track to fighting corruption.

The successful prosecution of high-level public officials is a tangible sign of Timor-Leste’s ongoing commitment to fighting corruption. Their efforts appear to be paying off. For example, their climb from #123 to #101 in the Corruption Perceptions Index is an impressive shift.

TINZ was asked to focus on public policies to prevent and fight corruption. It was an honour to be asked to be a part of this conference. Speaking engagements such as this reinforce New Zealand’s reputation for low public sector corruption and as a world leader in corruption prevention efforts.

Timor-Leste's Parliament was encouraged to build on the foundation they have already established through:

  • strengthening existing compliance tools;
  • building on the work of their Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) - including strengthening the powers of the ACC to prosecute;.
  • prioritising sustainable levels of funding for anti-corruption institutions; and
  • by making further training and education available for all public servants.

Further, CEO McGruddy suggested that the their ACC hold monthly Leaders Integrity Forums for Parliamentarians and Public Sector Leaders. Operating under Chatham House rules, similar forums offer a safe place for conversations about Anti-Corruption activity, and keeps thinking fresh and focused on issues and positive, practical examples of best practice.

The support and leadership from all parliamentarians for the implementation of public policies in the field of prevention and repression of corruption, will help Timor-Leste to build the integrity systems and integrity culture it needs to face the ongoing work of nation building.


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