Former member of interim Elections Commission deny corruption allegations by ACC

Former member of the interim Elections Commission (EC), Ahmed ‘Saabe’ Shahid, has denied allegations of corruption made by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) over the purchase of over 50 laptops without a public tender ahead of the October 2008 presidential election.

In a statement issued to the media yesterday, Saabe insisted that the procurement of the laptops was a necessary expense for the commission’s preparations for the historic multi-party elections in October.

The first 20 laptops were purchased after considering prices proposed on September 22 in response to a public announcement on September 16. The first round of the presidential election was held on October 8 and the second round run-off on October 28.

“To my recollection, additional laptops were bought on three further occasions,” reads the statement from Saabe. “Of these, the 10 laptops purchased on October 4 with my authorisation were bought on very short notice just four days before the 2008 presidential election.”

The former deputy chair of the EC explained that normal procurement procedures takes at least six days between the public announcement and the purchase.

The 10 laptops were therefore procured based on the September 16 announcement “after considering the period and [quoted] price of the previous transaction” and the company that could provide the notebook computers at the earliest possible date.

“A quotation was received from the company for this and the reason for the purchase was stated in that quotation,” he wrote.

Saabe noted that the EC was afforded a very short period of time to conduct the first multi-party presidential election and the first election where voters had to be registered.

In addition to considerable efforts in preparation, said Saabe, the commission had to make arrangements for Maldivians living abroad to participate in the election and register workers at resorts and industrial islands “to ensure the right to vote for every Maldivian citizen in a very short space of time.”

Saabe observed that while Rf99 million was allocated for the two rounds of the presidential election, the EC actually spent Rf65.1 million and “saved the state Rf30.9 million.”

The savings were the result of measures taken by the commission to reduce cost and wastage, he suggested.

“Section 18 of the Elections Commission Act states that the commission cannot be charged for actions taken with good intentions,” he said, adding that the transactions were made with the intention of doing “the best possible work in an extraordinarily short period of time.”


Two former members of interim Elections Commission face corruption charges

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has forwarded corruption cases against two former members and two senior officials of the Elections Commission (EC) to the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) for purchasing over 50 laptops without a public tender or bidding process.

The officials facing corruption charges are former commission members Ahmed ‘Saabe’ Shahid and Mohamed Mahir along with then-Director General Shaukath Ibrahim and Deputy Director Ahmed Naeem.

An ACC investigation into the allegedly fraudulent transactions found that the EC bought 57 NEC Versa S3300 notebook computers on four different occasions from the same company ahead of the 2008 presidential elections.

The 57 laptops were purhcased in the space of 21 days at a total cost of Rf 621,015 (S$40,000).

A press statement issued by the ACC yesterday revealed that the first 20 laptops were purchased after a public announcement on September 16, 2008, but an additional 37 laptops were purchased before October 15 – two weeks before the second round run-off – without an invitation for bids.

The ACC found from examining “goods delivery” notes that the EC received the laptops before the dates specified in the agreements, which were signed by then-Deputy Director Ahmed Naeem.

The ACC noted that the purchases were made in violation of regulations on procurement of items from a single party as well as a stipulation for public tenders and evaluation by a committee for purchases above Rf25,000.

While the EC did not form a committee to evaluate bids and award points for proposals in accordance with the regulations, the ACC also found the company that provided the laptops did not submit information in writing as required by the procurement regulations.

The ACC asked the PGO on November 17 to charge former Deputy Director Ahmed Naeem under the Anti-Corruption Act for abuse of authority for undue financial gain for a third party and to prosecute former members of the interim commission, Mohamed Mahir and Ahmed ‘Saabe’ Shahid, on similar corruption charges for authorising the illegal purchases.

Ahmed Shahid is a senior member of the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and husband of Galolhu North MP Eva Abdulla.

Both Mahir and Saabe had authorised the purchases by approving quotations provided by the company. The company was not named in the ACC press statement.

The ACC also requested the PG to prosecute then-Director General Shaukath Ibrahim to recover the cost of five laptops (Rf54,475) that were lost and not entered into the stock inventory. The investigators found that Shaukath as head of operations was responsible for the loss.