President Mohamed Waheed has ordered police to investigate budget overruns on the 2010 SAARC Summit during the previous administration of Mohamed Nasheed.
The President told a rally last night that he had “used my rights as president” to compel police to investigate the matter, according to local media.
The Auditor General released a special audit report last week on the Summit, alleging several financial discrepancies including an overspend of more than MVR 430 million (US$27.9 million) on the event’s allocated budget.
President Waheed is competing against Nasheed in the September election, along with the head of parliament’s finance committee responsible for commissioning the audit report, Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) candidate.Abdulla Yameen.
According to the report (Dhivehi), former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government spent MVR 667,874,870.84 (US$ 43.3 million), on the summit – 188.82 percent more than the MVR 231,240,000 (US$14.99 million) budget passed by parliament.
Others inconsistencies included payment of MVR 61.8 million (US$4 million) more the amount agreed for the construction of the Equatorial Convention Centre built for the summit, financial losses incurred by the government, violations of Public Finance Act and Public Finance Regulation and wasteful spending.
The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has meanwhile challenged the intent and credibility of the report, alleging the report “misleadingly” failed to distinguish between the government’s own money and the millions of dollars worth of foreign grant aid the country received to host the event.
Responding to the Auditor General’s claim that the former government had overspent more than MVR 430 million (US$27.9 million), former Housing and Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam said the Indian government had provided grant aid of MVR 267 million (US$17.3 million), the South Korean government MVR 3 million (US$194,552.53), while an additional MVR 2 million (US$129,701.69) was given from a trust fund.
According to the former Minister, when the grant aid was accounted for the deficit stood at MVR 167 million (US$10.83 million) – a third of the audit report’s figure – which had been settled by government’s contingency budget.
“The Auditor General is doing the math and arithmetic without taking these key figures into account. You simply can’t count apples and oranges and decide the total sum of both in apples. We see his findings something similar to counting apples in this manner,” Aslam said.
He also claimed that MVR 64 million (US$4.15 million) spent on building roads in both Addu City and Fuvahmulah was directed to improve the capacity of Southern Utilities Company Limited (SUL) because other companies who proposed to construct the road, including the government’s Maldives Transport and Construction Company (MTCC), were too expensive.
“The Auditor General claimed the government incurred financial losses by giving the project to SUL, and that the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) was actively involved in the construction work. And that government had paid SUL for the voluntary work carried out by the military personnel. What we are highlighting here is that if mathematically calculated, the amount spent on the project did not result in financial losses to the government,” Aslam contended.
He also questioned as to how the Auditor General came to the conclusion that the MNDF had contributed to 60 percent of the total work carried out to hold the SAARC Summit, stating that there was no justification given for the figure.
Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim defended his office, claiming the report was compiled based on information received from current government.
“The [MDP] is alleging that the current government was withholding information from us. We can’t do anything about that. We base our reports based on the information we receive,” he said.
PPM vice presidential candidate Dr Mohamed Jameel meanwhile called for the MDP to account for “economic atrocities”, speaking at a rally on Kulhudhuffushi in Haa Dhaal Atoll.
In a separate investigation, police have re-submitted for prosecution a case involving the alleged discovery of alcohol bottles in the presidential residence on February 7 2012, during the police mutiny that led to Nasheed’s resignation the same day.
The case was first filed by police on April 12 2012, but the case was returned by the PG’s office.
Police Spokesperson Chief Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed the case, which had been returned by the PG in December 2012 for further investigation, had been resubmitted after police “clarified certain issues” originally highlighted by state prosecutors.
“We have checked these matters and resent the case,” Haneef said.
Haneef downplayed any potential concerns that the resubmission of the case just over a month before the presidential election could be seen as politically motivated.
“This case has been going on for a long time. [Maldives police] work on a case-by-case basis and we have re-sent the case after investigations were completed,” he said.
Nasheed has also faced charges for the military detention of Chief Judge of the Criminal Court Abdulla Mohamed prior to the controversial transfer of power. Nasheed’s government had alleged the judge – who had struck down police warrants for his own arrest and obtained a civil court injunction against his investigation by the Judicial Services Commission – had “taken the entire judiciary in his fist”, among other allegations.
Nasheed and the MDP have maintained that the charges are a politically-motivated attempt to bar him from contesting the elections.