Paving the way for first Audit Chamber

Agapito Soares Santos and fellow trainees at the Legal Training Centre in Dili.
Agapito Soares Santos (left, black shirt) and fellow trainees at the Legal Training Centre in Dili. Photo Christine Kearney/UNDP TL

Dili – For Agapito Soares Santos, 40, being trained as one Timor-Leste’s first professional auditors is more than a great career opportunity.

The establishment of an Audit Chamber, where Mr Santos will soon work, is also a significant development for the country.

“This is an important step for Timor-Leste,” he said, speaking from the Legal Training Centre (LTC) in Dili, where he and his seven co-trainee auditors are completing a nine-month auditing course.

Highlights

  • The Audit Chamber will overlook Timor-Leste’s budget expenditure.
  • In 2012, trainee auditors undertook seven months training in Portugal, at the University of Lisbon and then at Portugal’s Audit Court.
  • A UNDP-funded advisor provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice and the Court of Appeal on the establishment of the Audit Chamber and on the Chamber’s foundational law, which was passed in mid-2011.

“This is one of the demands of the people, and a policy of the government – to create an institution which can truly control government [spending]... and in addition, can make judgements about institutional or financial responsibility,” he said.

The Audit Chamber will overlook Timor-Leste’s budget expenditure, ensuring due process in state spending.

A UNDP-funded advisor provided technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice and the Court of Appeal on the establishment of the Audit Chamber and on the Chamber’s foundational law, which Timor-Leste’s Parliament approved in mid-2011.

Soon after the law’s approval, Mr Santos and his co-trainees left for Portugal, where they spent seven months, first improving their Portuguese language skills first at the University of Lisbon and then studying at Portugal’s Audit Court.

The group also spent one month at Madeira Regional Court. They observed first-hand how auditors prepare to do an audit and then collect information from the field.

“Before we went out to the field, we saw how they prepared, collecting data, especially about legislation regarding the institution which was to be audited, preparing documents related to that institution’s work and then, how they went out into the field to get more information about how [that institution] had executed its budget,” he said.

Mr Santos and his fellow trainee auditors are currently completing their course at the UNDP-supported Centre, where they’ve been joined by three auditors from the Office of the Prosecutor General.

Now that he’s back on Timorese soil, Mr Santos said it’s difficult to compare the situation in Timor-Leste with Portugal, where bodies like that country’s Audit Court are well-established.

However, his big hope for the country’s fledging Audit Chamber is that it will receive the support it needs from other state bodies and from political leaders “so that this institution can really stand up as a genuinely independent entity”.

After they graduate from their course, the auditors will start working at the Audit Chamber.

A number of international auditors are also being recruited to work at the Chamber. The Ministry of Justice and the Audit Court in Portugal have a cooperative agreement for the recruitment of auditors from Portugal, who will work in Timor-Leste’s Audit Chamber in its initial stages of operation.

Timor-Leste’s 2002 Constitution mandates the establishment of the Audit Chamber. The Audit Chamber will sit within the Superior Administrative, Fiscal and Audit Court.