Maldives must empower Anti-Corruption Commission, says Transparency International

The Maldives must empower anti-corruption agencies to investigate and prosecute cases in order to fight corruption, says Transparency International.

“Maldives and Sri Lanka must ensure that their anti-corruption agencies are granted ‘suo motto’ powers to instigate both corruption investigations and prosecutions on their own initiative without prior government approval,” suggested the Fighting Corruption in South Asia (FCSA) report released today.

At present, the Maldives Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) can only initiate investigations, but not prosecutions. Instead, it has to forward cases to the Prosecutor General for any further action to be taken.

Analysing 70 institutions across 6 countries, the anti-corruption NGO concluded that a “serious lack of political will on the part of governments to make laws work” was hampering the regional fight against corruption.

The report also called on the government to enforce the Right to Information Law and ensure protection of whistleblowers.

Independence and Accountability

Although the report advocated greater independence for oversight bodies, it highlighted the need to balance independence with accountability.

Too much of either can lead to abuse of power, the report noted, arguing limited judicial accountability has resulted in the Maldives Supreme Court exerting excessive use of power over other branches of government.

One example that the FCSA uses to demonstrate their findings is the Maldives Supreme Court’s much-criticised decision to convict the president of the Elections Commission Fuwad Thowfeek for contempt of court earlier this year. The apex court acted as prosecutor, judge and jury during the trial.

The Maldivian Anti Corruption Commission itself has raised concerns over a Supreme Court rulings, in which the apex court ruled the body does not have the authority to prevent the state from entering into questionable contracts.

ACC President Hassan Luthfee has said a ruling on a legal battle involving Department of Immigration, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), and Malaysian IT firm Nexbis in 2012 had rendered the organisation powerless.

“If this institution is simply an investigative body, then there is no purpose for our presence,” he said.

“Even the police investigate cases, don’t they? So it is more cost effective for this state to have only the police to investigate cases instead of the ACC,” Luthfee said.

Referring the court’s, Luthfee said the ACC had no power to prevent corruption, arguing that anti-corruption bodies in other countries had powers of investigation, prevention, and awareness raising.

“If an institution responsible for fighting corruption does not have these powers then it is useless,” he said.

Right to Information

Another key finding highlighted in the FCSA report was what it regarded as the weak implementation of the Freedom of Information act, ratified earlier this year.

“In Maldives, although the new law has only just been passed, there are concerns about the level of citizens’ awareness of their rights, an issue which will need to be addressed as a matter of urgency,” the report states.

Under the act, an appointed commissioner has the power enforce a fine on information officers who deliberately refuse access to information. The President’s Office has today called for applications for the post which must be filled by mid July according to the new law.

The FCSA report categorises both the Maldives’ capacity to implement the law, and citizens’ awareness of the law as “weak”.

Additionally, the report highlighted the safety and protection of whistleblowers as a being major barrier to anti-corruption activities in the Maldives.

Noting the Right to Information Act provides protection to whistleblowers, the FCSA report called for more comprehensive whistleblower legislation with a broader scope covering both the public and private sectors.

Aiman Rasheed, Advocacy and Communications Manager at local Transparency branch Transparency Maldives said one the key findings of the report was the reversal of judicial reform after the February 2012 transfer of power.

“We had a new government set up. It was a positive environment. That has been reversed,” Aiman said.

He noted a “huge gap” between current systems and practices as politicians enjoyed an atmosphere of impunity following the controversial removal of President Mohamed Nasheed.

He went on to note that public engagement in holding officials accountable have been hindered by the lack of public debate in the local media.

“We have published a lot of reports on the public opinions of corruption, but we don’t see these being discussed in the media,” Aiman said.


8 thoughts on “Maldives must empower Anti-Corruption Commission, says Transparency International”

  1. I completely agree that ACC should be given more powers. But when almost all MPs are corrupt, it is highly unlikely they will do that, knowing that could put them in trouble.

  2. This would imply that the government wants to minimise corruption.

    Simply, this is not the case.

    ACC is a namesake only. And a net to ensnare those that are problematic to the government.

    Don't be naive to think otherwise.

  3. First we need to have another body to investigate the corruption of ACC members . By giving additional power to those corrupt people will not be the solution.

    One need to do a proper investigation of ACC members .

    Initial investigation by ACC on GMR case and thier first statement issued clearly mentioned the corruption involved . But later issued another statement just a week back before the first hearing , saying that there was no corruption involved at all.

    The timing does not seems to be just a coincidence and it was timed properly.

    Also they have mentioned " when they question some people involved in the process that those people have said that they can not remember what had happened then at that time" . This mean if ACC ask a person if he had committed a crime and then the person say , he don't remember , does this mean that the guy is innocent ? I don't think so.

  4. ACC staff might as well find new jobs and stop wasting everyone's time. How do you investigate and prosecute a government that is entirely corrupt?

    Maybe the supreme court could create a new ACC with their own appointees? Then we could focus solely on crimes committed by MDP. Since government aligned party members are 100% honest and never break the law.

  5. ACC losts its credibility on the day it released the report on GMR. Just goes to show ACC itself is corrupt.

  6. Agree with Hero. How can we curb corruption when those with the responsibility of investigating corruption are corrupt. Some of the members in ACC are close to different governments, including PPM and MDP and they just appear to go with what works for the moment. And more than anything, as long as judges are corrupt and the judiciary is for sale, and the MPs are for sale, corruption will prevail and it's those who are not into corruption who will suffer as scapegoats of the corrupt.

  7. So in conclusion, it's all just a giant waste of time.


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