Subject: East Timor Opposition Says Accused Ministers Must Go

East Timor Opposition Says Accused Ministers Must Go

DILI (AFP)--East Timor's opposition Fretilin party called for Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao to sack his justice and finance ministers Thursday after investigators recommended action against the pair for "abuse of power."

Fretilin parliamentary leader Aniceto Guterres told reporters that Justice Minister Lucia Lobato and Finance Minister Emilia Pires had to face the music for the latest corruption scandal to hit the government.

"Now an independent and impartial investigation by the country's constitutionally mandated anti-corruption watchdog has found sufficient evidence that Lobato and Pires abused their powers," he said.

Allegations were made last year that Lobato had provided business people with inside information about justice ministry projects to renovate a perimeter wall and provide uniforms at Becora prison.

In his report dated July 2, Ombudsman Sebastiao Ximenes wrote that there had been "an abuse of power by the minister of justice because she opted to implement single-source direct contracting for the rehabilitation works."

Furthermore, there had been "an abuse of power by the minister of justice and the minister of finance because they failed to duly observe the rules and procedures of procurement."

Ximenes told Radio Australia that he had recommended the prosecutor general take action against the justice minister and the companies involved in the projects.

Guterres said Gusmao hadn't hesitated to order action against low-ranking police officers and civil servants over "nothing more than allegations of misconduct," so the ministers should receive similar treatment.

Lobato has denied any wrongdoing, saying she would be ready for an investigation "anytime, anywhere." Pires hasn't commented on the ombudsman's findings.

The ombudsman's report was dated about a week after Gusmao came in the firing line for signing off on a $3.5 million government contract to a company his daughter allegedly owns an 11% share in.

Pires hit headlines in May amid allegations she gave high-paying jobs to employ under-qualified friends of hers.

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