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Spending the Public Purse; A Responsibility Perspective

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“We are the ones who are responsible for developing our country and safeguarding its assets for a better life for the people.”

Every time the Anti-Corruption Commission carries out a workshop, or travels to any of Timor-Leste’s 13 districts, this is our message.

We want government officials and public servants to have a sense of new nationalism and patriotism in the country’s independence era, to serve people with honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency. This is why CAC conducts a series of workshops across the country, engaging with the 31,000 people that make up the public service.

But what does a sense of nationalism and patriotism mean within the context of anti-corruption?

It means responsibility from a public servant to not use their position – whether as a minister, a director-general, a national director, a manager or a procurement officer – for the benefit of themselves, their family or another person. This is unacceptable conduct given many Timorese people across the country still continue to live in poverty.

Public servants play an important role in managing state property. Their responsibilities are as broad-ranging as managing revenue from our natural resources, to determining the educational needs of our children and providing housing and a safe environment for those that need it.

In carrying out their duties, public servants have a moral obligation to implement the dreams of our heroes – who died during our past struggles for national liberation in the fight against colonialism and foreign military occupation – without corruption.

Community expectation condemns when public servants utilize public property for self-benefit, family and another group.

But it is not just the community that condemns corruption. A survey of over 1,400 public servants carried out by CAC last year shows the public service overwhelmingly wants to improve the services it delivers to the Timorese community. Nearly every public servant interviewed was open to training on anti-corruption prevention techniques.

The survey found more needs to be done to monitor transgressions, strengthen prevention, improve tendering processes, raise awareness about standards of conduct, and alleviate tough working conditions.

This survey has helped inform CAC’s training this year, as we seek to help public servants practice good management techniques in a transparent manner. Tackling institutional change is no easy task, but CAC believes public servants are up to it.

To support our work with the public service, we are also talking to veterans, students, the private sector, NGOs, and community leaders about how they can play their own part in fighting corruption in their daily lives.

Preventing corruption and promoting good and clean governance, will help bring prosperity to the people and, hopefully in the future mean better roads, better access to clean water, better education for our children and an alleviation of poverty.

The job of every person in this country is to allow Timor-Leste’s prospects to grow by not allowing the seeds of corruption, collusion, and nepotism to take hold.

Sometimes we think it is easier to do nothing and continue down the same path, instead of trying to be responsible and do the right thing. But when it comes to corruption, we can’t take this same mentality.

So, there are two futures for Timor-Leste: one where corruption denies people the basic essentials of life, or one where we fight against corruption to support prosperity. Which responsible path will you take? (*)

This post is also available in: Tetum

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Spending the Public Purse; A Responsibility Perspective