Functions of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) held at the official presidential residence Muleeage are not funded from the state budget, President Abdulla Yameen has said.
Speaking to the press at a PPM event in Muleeage on Thursday night (June 5), President Yameen reportedly said he did not believe using the official residence for meetings or party activities amounted to misuse of state resources.
The president’s remarks followed Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim’s insistance last week that state property could not be used for party activities.
Niyaz told local media that Muleeage could only be used either for functions held by the president or the first lady in their official capacity or for meeting invited guests.
Recent signing ceremonies to welcome high-profile new members to the ruling party – most recently Independent MP Abdulla Khaleel and Environment Minister Thoriq Ibrahim – have been held in Muleeage.
President Yameen told reporters Thursday night that while he respected the auditor general’s opinion he did not believe using Muleeage for party functions was a problem.
“No money from the government’s budget or Muleeage budget is spent for any work done here. If there’s a tea or anything else here, we make the expenses outside the budget. So this is not a resource that is consumed,” Yameen was quoted as saying by newspaper Haveeru.
Yameen said he meets members of the public as well as MPs at Muleeage, adding that meeting MPs at the President’s Office to discuss parliamentary affairs would be “too official.”
“If expenses are not made from the government budget, it would be best if the place [Muleeage] is not made too much of an issue,” he suggested.
After assuming office in November, President Yameen had announced that he would continue to live in his private residence. However, the budget allocated for the official residence was increased by MVR2 million (US$130,208) in the state budget for 2014 – rising to MVR19.1 million (US$1.2 million).
In April this year, parliament approved amendments to to the law governing renumeration and benefits for the president and vice president making it mandatory for the state to cover expenses of the pair’s private residences should either choose not to live in the official residences.
“Biased and misleading”
Meanwhile, the PPM also put out a press statement last week contending that the auditor general’s remarks were biased, misleading and politically motivated.
“This party’s activities have not been held in the president’s official residence Muleeage so far,” the party claimed.
The party also contended that the president holding meetings in Muleeage with various individuals could not be considered “a political party activity.”
Alleging that a number of party activities and functions – without the participation of the president – had been held in Muleeage during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed, the PPM noted that “the auditor general had not said anything about it” at the time.
The press release went on to criticise the auditor general for not objecting to political party activities allegedly held at the Malé City Council premises as well as the use of the Dharubaaruge convention centre by protesters of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) in the wake of the controversial transfer of power in February 2012.
“Therefore, as this party believes that the interviews given by the auditor general to the media saying that the president’s official residence is being used for this party’s activities were biased and political, we express deep concern about the matter,” the press release stated.
The statement concluded by calling on the auditor general not to make statements without “properly considering the truth of the matter.”