Malé City Council ordered to suspend projects

The Finance Committee of the People’s Majlis has ordered Malé City Council to suspend all projects except for basic service delivery, pending an investigation into the council’s conduct in leasing land.

“The Finance Committee has received reports the Malé City Council is acting in the interest of certain individuals in renting out land and awarding contracts for development of land,” the Finance Committee said in a statement today.

The decision passed with the unanimous support of the five members present and voting.

Meanwhile, the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) announced today that it has recommended charges be filed against two of the nine Malé City councilors and three council staff for conferring undue advantage in the awarding of a contract in the Vilimalé Safe Beach Project.

The two councilors are Deputy Mayor Ahmed Samah Rasheed and Ibrahim Sujau. The staff are Assistant Directors Mizhath Naeem, Aishath Jumana Mohamed Rasheed, and Abdulla Rameez.

The Vilimalé Safe Beach Project had sought a contractor to keep the Vilimalé beach area, jetty, and lagoon clean and promised to provide adequate workspace.

The winning bidder had asked for two beachfront blocks to build administrative offices and establish a business at the site in order to sustain the project.

However, the ACC said it does not believe the Malé City Council’s promise of workspace allows for land to be granted to carry out for-profit activities.

The commission notes that all bidders except the winning bidder believed the workspace simply meant land on which to store equipment.

The bid evaluation committee justified their decision by arguing that the winning bidder had proposed a much lower price. However, the commission said that if other bidders had known the promised workspace could be rented out or used for profit, then it is possible that they may have proposed lower prices as well.

Hence, “other bidders did not receive opportunity to compete fairly,” the ACC said.

The ACC recommends the Prosecutor General pursue criminal charges for conferring undue advantage under Article 12 (a) in the Prevention and Prohibition of Corruption Act of 2000.

A study conducted by advocacy NGO Transparency Maldives has found 83 percent of people surveyed felt corruption had increased or stayed the same during the past two years in the Maldives.

According to the survey, the most common area in which bribes were paid was said to be land services, with the most frequent reason for giving bribes being ‘to speed things up’.

Earlier in December the ACC alleged corruption in the award of apartments to individuals as part of the Veshifahi Malé housing programme, ordering the invalidation of 139 of the 448 successful applications.

Elections for the Malé City Council are to be held on January 18.