ACC orders re-evaluation of overseas student loan scheme

The Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) has ordered the Ministry of Education to reevaluate the vetting procedures for a tertiary student loan scheme.

The scheme was opened in August 2013 for students seeking higher education abroad for courses that are not available in the Maldives.

However, in awarding points, the ministry’s Department of Higher Education had failed to cross-check if courses listed in applications were indeed not available in the Maldives, the commission said. Some applicants were awarded extra points for courses that are in fact available in the Maldives.

Further, one applicant was allowed the opportunity to change their application during the vetting process, the commission said.

Of the 614 students who had applied for higher education abroad, the ministry had chosen 250. On the ACC’s orders, the loan awarding ceremony on December 15 was called off minutes before it was scheduled to begin.

In a statement published today, the ACC said one applicant had applied for funds to study abroad for a law degree and was initially given zero points as a law degree is available in the Maldives.

However, the same applicant was later given the opportunity to change their field of study to international law – a course not available in the country. When the final list was published, the applicant had been awarded 10 points. The same opportunity had not been given to other applicants, the commission noted.

The ACC will investigate the case further as it constitutes awarding undue advantage under the prevention of corruption regulation, the statement said.

If a field of study is not available in the Maldives, applicants were not required to clarify the specific course or the institute or the country in which they intended to study, allowing applicants opportunity to make up any course in the application, the ACC said.

In December, the ACC also found issues with government vetting procedures in applications for the Veshifahi Malé programme after an investigation revealed that officials had violated the programme’s publicised processes when grading applications.

The commission subsequently ordered the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure to invalidate applications for the programme.

In a recently released corruptions perception poll by local NGO Transparency Maldives, land services was revealed as the area in which most respondents had paid a bribe. In contrast, the education system was regarded as the least corrupt sector.