President upholds ACC’s postponement of border control shakeup

President Mohamed Nasheed has upheld the decision to postpone the roll-out of a new electronic border control system for the Maldives in accordance with concerns by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) over the project’s selection process.

The President’s Office confirmed to Minivan News that Nasheed has requested that the Department of Immigration and Emigration adhere to the ACC’s guidance until it rules over the next step for the project, with no appeal expected to be heard on the current decision.

Work on the project was suspended soon after being agreed last October, when the ACC raised concerns over allegations of corruption in the decision making process.

The ongoing criticism by the ACC of the Nexbis border control agreement has itself come under fire amidst accusations that it represents a politically-motivated attack on wider government reforms, according to a source within the immigration department.

A spokesperson for the ACC was not available for comment at the time of going to press.

However, the ACC this week sent a confidential letter to Immigration Controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim calling for approval from the Maldives Cabinet or National Planning Council (NPC) over concerns regarding corruption within the decision making process for the deal. The letter was also leaked to the press.

Prior to the President’s decision to hold the project, a source within the immigration department told Minivan News that it had remained confident that the project, signed with Malaysia-based Nexbis in October as part of attempts to prevent abuse of the working visa system, would be “greenlit” by either the cabinet or the NPC.

Having already been approved by two independent audits, the source claimed that President Nasheed had also indicated to local media this week that he saw no reason to oppose the existing agreement for the new border control system.

However, the immigration department said that it will comply with the President’s orders and wait for any further decisions by the ACC relating to border control.

Alongside refuting any suggestions that corruption had played a role within the decision to choose Nexbis, the Immigration Department insider claimed that technical criticisms of the system were part of wider political moves to try and disrupt the government’s reform of the border control system.

However, the anti-corruption body is said to have highlighted a number of issues concerning the different models used to identify travel documents such as passports under the visa scheme.

“The ACC does not have the technical background to be able to criticise and understand the [border control] system,” said the immigration department source. “More education is needed [within the commission].”

The Nexbis border control project had aimed to make use of fingerprint and facial recognition devices that according the Department of Immigration could be set up within four to six months as part of the first phase of the project focusing on working visas – essentially matching individuals to records without the requirement for paper documents.

However, the President’s decision means that the work will continue to remain on hold since the signing in October.

“On the very day we signed the contract, barely hours, maybe minutes later, the ACC had drafted a letter saying there was suspicions of corruption involved with the decision,” said the immigration department source, who asked not to be identified. “From that moment, we have stopped work on the system as requested by the ACC.”

When news of the disruption broke in November, shares in Nexbis immediately dropped 6.3 percent. Minivan News has since spoken to other foreign investors in the Maldives who have expressed concern that their share prices were at risk of becoming collateral in local politics.

The injunction issued by the ACC effectively places an indefinite delay on the project. The commission has not finalised an investigation since 2008.

Trafficking concerns

Immigration reforms, of which the Nexbis project was part, were intended in part to address the government’s serious concerns over labour trafficking.

Last year, the Maldives was placed on the US State Department watch list for human trafficking, a crime which may actually narrowly eclipse the fishing industry as the second-largest contributor to the Maldivian economy after tourism, US$43.8 million on paper but potentially reaching up to US$200 million.

The Nexbis system was said to allow the immigration department to store and retrieve the biometric data of expatriates working in the country, effectively circumventing the abuse of paper documentation and curbing the ability of workers – and traffickers – to operate in the country.

“We currently have a large number of illegal expatriates running around the country,” another source at the immigration department told Minivan News back in 2010. “Right now estimate that there are 100,000 foreign workers in the country, but there are no official figures on how many may be illegal.”

Workers were arriving in the country legally “but once in the country they discard the documents and flee to islands, and seek better payment.”

Many companies in the Maldives were benefiting “and facilitating” the problem, the source said, which was impacting those companies “who do operate legally and pay visa fees to the government.”

Ensuring that workers could be accurately identified, even without documentation, was the key benefit of the new system, the source explained.


9 thoughts on “President upholds ACC’s postponement of border control shakeup”

  1. A very one sided article. There is a lot of corruption inside the Immigration Department. The Department have done nothing close to enough to resolve the illegal immigrant issue despite hefty deposits charged before their entry. Consultation with stake holders before decision making is not their policy. From what we see from the press, the Controller's favourite is "take the issue to court." He is in direct confrontation with his deputy and other government ministries (like the Labour Ministry). For me it looks like he is running a mini state rather than the country's immigration department.

  2. This is one bad appointment!

    Aristocracy has not yet left our shores yet and is deep within all parties and class!

    To my belief until Ali Hussain Didi as Controller of Immigration and Emigration, many of them Controllers have been very aristocratic and implementing almost slavery like rules, regulations such as numbering chairs, painting the floors etc. etc.!!!!

    Who we need is someone like Mr. Didi who could take decisions and do things in a suitable manner without depriving rights of anyone and who can be impartial!

  3. Just i understand everything was done by Finance Ministry and even the Bid process was good, only immigration role is corrupt, which we cant understand, we heard two senior Officers from Immigration had complain before ACC inform but now it was just a local person. As a Maldivian the Report from ACC never mention about corruption and which was investigate out of Mandates of ACC my point of view,

    I think ACC is having some corruption because the way the report which Immigration news conference highlight ACC never meet immigration Technical Team which was met only with Adam which he was not involve in this project and he came to office after the bid process Finnish and this is the weakness of ACC investigation team.

    ACC Investigation team don't have right to investigate like police or court case they must investigate for corruption which the President and Vice president had already corrupt.
    We heard it was involve PA involvement for ACC president to spoil this project and ACC Vice President for immigration Adam Naseer involvement.

    The MDP will fail

  4. When I try to visit the website of Nexbis, Google shows this:

    "Warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer!"

    Apart from Nexbis signing a contract with the Malaysian government for a border control system in 2008, there's no indication that they've implemented this technology elsewhere for border control.

    We don't even know whether they've successfully implemented the Malaysian one, which started in 2008.

    A lot of questions need to be answered about Nexbis itself and their so-called "security solutions".

  5. It's well known that foreign companies quite often are involved in bribing local officials to gain business.

    This was highlighted by the case of Siemens of Germany. Siemens was found guilty of large scale bribery in bids to win foreign business contracts.

    If there's even a hint of corruption involved, that needs to be looked into, although I'm not sure that the ACC has the expertise to do so.

  6. well done Opposition thats a success cos you'll couldnt hinder the GMR project , at least you managed to keep our gates ( borders ) with out being locked , i wonder why all politicans keep there homes locked with finger prnt or combination locks. this is a shame to hold this excellent tool which is essential for a country like us which does not require a visa to travel? i wonder how many snipers, or people belonging to terror cells who are capable of destroying our land marks would easily crossed. how many pediofiles who are on the run from law enforcement or justice is here in hope of a another small kid of ours. imagine the vulnerability ??? think, these city hotels ??? whts this, think guys dont let our country be doomed by the eveil spirits.

  7. Every single effort by the government to improve something is either met by the ACC or by the parliament.

    There are always someone in each organization who would do the necessary leaking and the reporting. These are the contacts/connections kept by the Opposition parties.

    The reason is either some of the Opposition members would get exposed, or their revenue stand to get reduced.

    I do not understand why the ACC has to stop a process. If they find anything wrong they investigate and send it to the Prosecutor General.

  8. A country which welcomes people with friendliness and papmpering. maldives economy hugely depndeds on its beauty , inviting tourists? these projcets will defeinetley help to trace share and be on the alert for possibilities? who could this IT head be, my sources told me he is just a DRP politically promoted guy during the DRP regime by Kuvaa shafiu. Immigration Assistant Control post and even Master Degree Course was given by Shafiu

  9. Ok ACC has a mandate to stop corruption.

    But are they ready to compensate for any losses for the two parties in a deal when they order a process to be stalled just because someone reports to them something is fishy.

    ACC vice President articles in news paper too Hard to immigration

    Even a court has to have enough evidence to detain a suspect after 48 hours.


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