Guest blog from Mélissa Jaar, student intern with Luta Hamutuk
From March 23-27th, Integrity Action’s partner Luta Hamutuk conducted community meetings in 6 villages in the district of Baucau, as part of the organisation’s Community Integrity Building (CIB) efforts in Timor-Leste. In each village, Luta Hamutuk staff informed citizens and local authorities, attending the briefings, about the Timorese government’s Petroleum Fund and the 2015 state budget. They shared “Faktus Informasaun” documents with all the participants. These are one-page reports providing detailed information about the government’s Petroleum Fund and the 2015 state budget. Both the Petroleum Fund and the budget determine how and where resources will be allocated by the government, which deliver key services for Timorese citizens. For most participants, it was the first time that they learnt in detail about how the government allocates resources which directly impact their everyday lives.
Participants were also introduced to CIB, as well as the importance of communities taking the lead in solving integrity issues, in order to improve vital public services. This included explaining how active and engaged citizens can work with key stakeholders in government, to achieve Fixes and resolve problems at the community level.
After the briefings, participants discussed the main development needs of their villages and included these in a letter, addressed to the national parliament, detailing each village’s development needs and priorities. These letters will also be transferred to the national parliament and to the relevant ministries to demonstrate that these communities are empowered to demand change at the local level.
At the end of the community briefings, 11 citizens were elected by their fellow citizens as focal points. These focal points will receive training in CIB from Luta Hamtuk and monitor the construction of vital public infrastructure projects such as roads, schools and health facilities in their communities. Training will enable them to analyse project documents, conduct project site visits to compare the actual project to the documents, take photos of the project, conduct beneficiary surveys, verify findings as well as engage with stakeholders such as contractors and local government to fix problems. Luta Hamutuk will then share findings on DevelopmentCheck, Integrity Action’s user-driven solutions-oriented online tool for citizen feedback on development projects.
Luta Hamutuk is ensuring that citizens are taking the lead in tackling integrity issues in Timor-Leste. Informing citizens about the allocation of public resources, as well as training citizens to monitor vital public services, empowers communities to bring about to bring about positive change, thereby improving people’s lives.