Niyaz challenges auditor general reappointment clause at High Court

Former Auditor General (AG) Niyaz Ibrahim has requested the High Court to declare the People’s Majlis’ decision to reappoint the AG as unconstitutional.

President Abdulla Yameen yesterday approved Hassan Ziyath as the new AG hours after 59 MPs voted in his favor. The ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) had pushed through a surprise amendment to the Audit Act on October 29 requiring the AG be reappointed within 30 days.

Speaking to Minivan News, Niyaz’s lawyer Ibrahim Riffath said Niyaz could not be dismissed half way through his seven year term through an amendment to the Audit Act.

“Article 215 of the Constitution clearly sets the AG’s term to seven years. Niyaz was appointed in May 2011. Further, Article 218 states the AG’s position only becomes vacant if the incumbent resigns or through a no confidence vote by the People’s Majlis,” he explained.

“The Majlis will have to amend the constitution to dismiss him by any other means.”

Niyaz has also requested that the High Court issue an injunction on the enforcement of the new amendment.

According to Riffath, the High Court is yet to make a decision on accepting the case as the matter had been lodged at the Supreme Court as a public interest litigation matter.

The Supreme Court this evening rejected the case. The High Court now has no legal barriers in examining the case, Riffath said.

“This is a very sensitive issue. I hope the High Court expedites a verdict. If the amendment is unconstitutional, as we believe it to be, then the legality of the current auditor general’s actions are questionable.”

Yameen’s appointment of Ziyath for the post has raised controversy as his brother, Abdulla Ziyath was recently implicated in a US$6million corruption scandal alongside tourism minister Ahmed Adeeb.

Niyaz had revealed the corrupt transactions in a special audit report a day after PPM MPs pushed through the Audit Act amendment.

The audit report accused Abdulla Ziyath, the Managing Director of state owned Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC) of illegally pushing through loans worth US$6million from state funds to two private companies owned by Adeeb’s family members.

Adeeb has denied allegations, and accused Niyaz of colluding with MP and former Deputy Speaker of parliament Ahmed Nazim in releasing the audit report. Adeeb suggested Nazim had a personal vendetta against him following his refusal to support Nazim for the Majlis Speakership in May.

The Criminal Court on October 26 withheld Nazim’s passport on allegations of blackmail.

Hassan Ziyath yesterday received cross party support from ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM), its allies the Maldives Development Alliance (MDA) and Jumhooree Party, as well as the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).

MDP MPs including ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, Ahmed Marzooq, ‘Rukuma’ Mohamed Abdul Kareem and Ibrahim ‘Mavota’ Shareef voted in favor despite the party previously claiming the amendment was unconstitutional.