The Transport Ministry has denied findings by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) that the Dhoogas Guest House in Addu Atoll was awarded to MVK for 50 years in violation of the government’s financial regulations and tourism laws.
A statement issued by the Ministry today denies any wrongdoing or corruption in the awarding of Dhoogas as part of the agreement to establish a transport network in the South Province.
It adds that nationwide connectivity was an important policy of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and President Nasheed was closely monitoring the process of establishing integrated regional transport networks.
“Therefore, we do not believe that there has been any violation of the financial regulations in this project,” it reads.
Moreover, as the contracts were awarded following transparent bidding processes, the tourism law did not preclude granting plots of land in return for providing ferry services.
However, a press release by the ACC on Sunday states that islands or plots of land could only be awarded for island hotels by the Tourism Ministry for a maximum of 25 years.
The awarding of Dhoogas therefore violated articles two, four, five and nine of the Tourism Law as well as article 250 of the constitution and clause seven of the financial regulations.
The ACC statement reads that the law was clear that provisions on tourist resorts would also apply to city hotels.
Moreover, land could only be leased for 50 years to public companies that fulfilled specified conditions.
It adds the Transport Ministry was informed on June 3 that the guesthouse could not be awarded to MVK.
The ACC investigation into the awarding of the contract to MVK, prompted by a complaint lodged at the commission, is still underway.
The ACC notes that five months elapsed after the signing of the contract with MVK before the President’s Office transferred the land to the Tourism Ministry.
Less than a week after the contract was signed in October last year, the Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) alleged corruption in the bidding process, claiming that the company was a financial contributor to the MDP presidential campaign.
DQP called on the government to annul the contract and initiate a second bidding process as more companies would have competed if it was known that the incentive was the 86-bed Dhoogas Guesthouse, which was “ready for immediate financial benefit,” instead of plots of land as previously announced.
The party argued that there was reason to suspect corruption as MVK won “a lucrative contract” in competition with companies with more experience despite having no history of providing ferry services.
However, at the time, State Minister for Transport ‘Maizan’ Adam Manik denied the allegations to Minivan News.
Manik said companies had the choice of either selecting the government’s standard bid document or providing an alternative bid proposal.
MVK chose the latter, he explained, suggesting Dhoogas as part of their bid.
Moreover, all bids were forwarded to a bid evaluation committee at the ministry of finance and then to the privatisation committee before the final decision was made.
Mohamed Zuhair, president’s office press secretary, added proposals were finally sent to the attorney general to confirm the bidding process was above board.