Parliament today voted to dismiss Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, with 43 voting in favour of the no-confidence motion and 28 against.
President Mohamed Nasheed was last night reported to be seeking to urgently meet with MPs, foregoing a function marking the close of the donor conference.
Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Mohamed Shifaz said all the party’s MPs had voted against the no-confidence motion on Auditor General ”as it was a responsibility of the government to defend all its institutions, and we are on the government’s side.”
On the other side, MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) coalition were joined by seven independents, the two Dhivehi Qaumee Party MPs and the sole Republican Party representative.
Shifaz said he believed the Auditor General had not committed anything that warranted a no-confidence motion.
”DRP want to remove him from that position due to the reports he released, which accused many senior leaders of corruption including former president,” he said. ”They had personal issues with him.”
He claimed the parliament procedures need to be changed and there were many things to be corrected.
”The speaker has not revealed the Anti-Corruption Commissions report to MPs yet, because it contains things which accuse his own party’s members of corruption,” Shifaz claimed.
DRP MP Ahmed Ilham said it was now “very clear” that the Auditor General was corrupt.
”Independent MPs who always vote on MDP side voted on DRP side today,” Ilham said.
He said the government was trying to defend Naeem in many ways, “which proves that the government is promoting corruption in the country in the name of erasing it,” he said.
”MDP MPs forced the parliament to be canceled two days, and MDP activists disrupted the peace of the nation just to defend the Auditor General.”
Ilham said that if there was a credible corruption case against former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, “the government should not wait a single second before investigating those cases.”
”Those are just rumors they spread,” he said. “Why won’t the government go ahead and prove it to the people?”
Ilham said while people believed Naeem was independent as the Audit Office was a independent institution, ”that the government tried to defend him proves he was a man fully on MDP’s side.”
Naeem was appointed by Former President Gayoom and a DRP-majority Majlis.
The Auditor General was accused of corruption by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for using the government’s money to buy a tie and visit Thulhaidhu in Baa Atoll.
Naeem claimed the charges were an attempt to discredit his office and prevent him from reclaiming the government’s money stored in overseas bank accounts.
“A lot of the government’s money was taken through corrupt [means] and saved in the banks of England, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia,” Naeem claimed two weeks ago, during his first press conference in eight months.
The motion to dismiss him was put forward by the parliamentary finance committee, chaired by Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim, who the previous week had pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the former ministry of atolls development while be was Managing Director of Namira Engineering and Trading Pvt Ltd.
Tension over the motion led to violent clashes inside parliament, which spread to supporters of both major parties outside the chamber. Police were forced to use tear gas on several occasions over the weekend to subdue crowds of violent demonstrators.
Press Secretary for the President Mohamed Zuhair claimed the DRP were trying to remove Naeem because he had accused the party’s senior leaders of corruption during their administration.
”They are intending to spread doubt among the people, and they think it will be easier to defend themselves if the Auditor General is dismissed,” Zuhair said.
The dismissal of the Auditor General would “not be a big loss” to the government’s attempts to recover the money, ”as there are many professional accountants in the Audit Office”, Zuhair said.
He said all the political benefits being attributed to the no-confidence motion on Auditor General were due the government, ”as [Naeem] was elected by a majority of DRP MPs.”
The dismissal of the Auditor General is unlikely to slow the government’s appetite for reclaiming state funds it believes are stashed overseas.
Today during the closure of Donor Conference, President Mohamed Nasheed confirmed that a “stolen asset recovery program is part-and-parcel of the World Bank projects.”
“We are a member of that program and will of course be working within the framework available to us,” he said.
“If there are any stolen assets I’m sure we will be able to identify them, and if they are ill-gotten I sure we will we will be able to repatriate them.”
There was “no timeline”, the President added.
The Stolen Asset Recovery program (StAR) is a 2007 joint initiative between the World Bank and the UN Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which according to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, “fosters much needed cooperation between developed and developing countries and between the public and private sectors to ensure that looted assets are returned to their rightful owners.”