The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has ordered the Ministry of Islamic Affairs to halt the bidding process for selecting Hajj Groups to accompany Maldivian pilgrims and to revise the criteria for awarding quotas.
Following an investigation into alleged corrupt practices, the ACC revealed in a press statement today that it identified nine issues with the regulations (Dhivehi) formulated by the ministry for evaluating bid proposals, which was published in the government gazette on February 12.
The ACC investigation was prompted by a complaint lodged at the commission alleging that the regulations were being used to unduly benefit certain parties.
The ACC decision came on the heels of a stay order (Dhivehi) issued by the Civil Court this morning ordering the ministry to halt the bidding process pending a ruling on the validity of the regulations.
The stay order or injunction was granted in a lawsuit filed by two Hajj groups – the Abatross and Minaa groups – contending that the bidding process was unfair.
Among the issues identified by the ACC was a new requirement for interested parties to submit bank statements – dating back six months – of the company’s management account and money depositing account.
Companies were also required to submit details of employees who would be accompanying pilgrims as well as documents proving their experience.
While 15 percent of marks were to be awarded for experience, the ACC noted that the regulations did not specify how experience would be measured or graded.
Moreover, while companies were required to submit details of ticket prices along with their proposal, the ACC noted that it would depend on the quota, which was to be decided by the ministry following evaluation of bids.
In addition, the commission found that there were no guidelines to evaluate the proposed price (45 percent of marks) and the quality of service (30 percent), whilst the ministry had not set a ceiling for the quoted price.
Based on its findings, the ACC ordered the ministry to revise the issues identified in its investigation report – shared with the ministry today – before resuming the bidding process.
Of the 800 pilgrim quota afforded to the Maldives by Saudi Arabia, 400 were reserved by the government’s Hajj Corporation while the rest were to be divided amongst companies chosen from the bidding process.
The proposals were to be submitted to the Islamic Ministry at 10:30am today.
The bidding process for Hajj groups was marred by controversy in 2013 as well. In May, the High Court overturned a Civil Court ruling in which the trial court ordered the Islamic Ministry to reevaluate several unsuccessful bids presented by local Hajj groups.