President’s member on the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) Aishath Velezinee has referred the judicial watchdog to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), accusing it of embezzling state funds by awarding a ‘committee allowance’ contrary to Article 164 of the Constitution.
Article 164 states that “A member of the Judicial Service Commission who is not a member of the Executive, the Judiciary, or the People’s Majlis shall be paid such salary and allowances as may be determined by the People’s Majlis.”
Only JSC members Velezinee, Sheikh Shuaib Abdu Rahmaan and lawyer Ahmed Rasheed are paid salaries as they do not hold state posts.
However Velezinee has alleged that all commission members – including those with state incomes – are earning Rf 500 for each commission meeting and Rf 300 for each committee meeting, and claimed that these allowances were not approved by the parliament and were therefore unlawful.
The budget for the JSC commission members, obtained by Minivan News, confirms Velezinee’s claims that JSC members are in some cases receiving up to Rf 9000 (US$700) a month as a ‘committee allowance’; a total of Rf 514,660 (US$40,000) in 2010.
“JSC members have been taking allowances for the meetings and committees they attend stating that this has been decided by JSC,” Velezinee said.
“The decisions in the JSC defer day to day depending on the views of the members present at the time. This decision has no legal backbone to support it and will not at all make any sense to a sane person.”
Furthermore, she said, “the JSC is not independent. Some members use their position, power and connections (including with judges and the Judges Association of the Maldives) to spread absolute lies to discredit and defame me which has prevented me from carrying out my responsibility according to the Constitution.”
The JSC, she noted, had not even provided her chair in which to sit for over a year. “Every time I sit down somewhere in the office they find another use for the space the next day. Junior staff don’t even seem to think I’m a member of the commission.”
Velezinee said she has repeatedly asked the Commission to stop paying the allowance into her bank account, “even giving them cheques for the money”, but says she is always met with prevarication. The budget shows that Attorney General Ahmed Ali Sawad, also a JSC member, has declined to receive any money from the Commission.
Despite drawing the allowances that Velezinee alleges are fraudulent, the Commission also failed to investigate any of the 140 complaints against judges sent to it in 2010. Furthermore, 122 complaints sent to the Commission in 2009 were rejected “as irrelevant.”
A statement issued by the JSC claimed that parliament had approved the allowances.
”Although that is the truth, on January 10, 2011, Presidential Member of the Commission Aishath Velezinee misinformed the media about this without clarifying the matter,” read the statement. ”We advise her to uphold the code of conduct as mentioned in article 17 of the Judicial Service Commission.”
Yesterday JSC President Adam Mohamed and Vice President Dr Afrasheem Ali called a press conference in the JSC’s meeting room, but cancelled it after Velezinee attended the press conference and sat with the journalists.
The press conference was later held in Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) studio without Velezinee being informed.
During the conference, when journalists questioned why the first meeting was canceled, Adam replied that no members of the commission other than those who the commission decided could attend were permitted to attend the press conference.
Haveeru reported Deputy Commissioner Dr Afrasheem Ali as saying the constitution did not say that the allowance could not be given unless the parliament approved it.
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has said it will begin investigating the case as a serious issue.