Parliament rejects Auditor General nominee

Parliament today rejected the nomination of former Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) President Ali Rasheed Umar for Auditor General, a post which remains vacant more than eight months after former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem was contentiously removed through a vote of no-confidence.

Of the 69 MPs who participated in today’s vote, 34 voted against while 35 voted in favour, four short of the 39 votes needed for approval.

Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today that while the President’s Office will respect the parliament’s decision, the vote was marred by “political partisanship.”

Opposition MPs used their “brute majority” to reject a qualified candidate for political reasons, said Zuhair, adding that 35 votes in favour showed that Umar was “a popular nominee.”

In August, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that evaluated the nominee awarded him an average of 62 marks based on a criteria of educational qualification, experience, initiative and vision, and integrity, below the 75 percent mark needed for committee recommendation.

At today’s sitting, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed said that parliament could not approve a nominee with 62 marks, urging President Mohamed Nasheed to consult with all political parties before putting forward nominations and “not just after internal discussions with those of a certain colour”.

Ali Waheed called on the government to nominate consensus candidates that all political parties could support.

In August, DRP MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that Ali Rasheed Umar was dogged by “integrity issues” during his time at the ACC.

Former ACC member and the commission’s current President Hassan Luthfee is pursuing a defamation case against Umar in the civil court, after the ACC requested police to investigate Luthfee for allegedly leaking confidential information.

In July 2009, Luthfee sent a letter to the PAC containing information of an ongoing investigation into then-Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, claiming that the ACC was hushing up the investigation.

Umar alleged that Luthfee was attempting to curry favour with opposition MPs to secure his nomination to the new ACC.

While President Mohamed Nasheed nominated Luthfee for the commission in June, he withdrew the nominee after the Attorney General filed a case against Luthfee for allegedly not completing a government bond in his time at the Auditor General’s Office.

However, parliament rejected President Nasheed’s substitute nominee and approved Luthfee to the commission.

Meanwhile in March this year, parliament dismissed Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem from his post after the ACC forwarded two cases for prosecution alleging that Naeem used an official credit card to purchase personal items and fund a private visit to the island of Thulhadhoo in Baa Atoll.

Naeem denied the accusations, claiming that the cases were an attempt to discredit his office, which had issued over 30 audit reports of government ministries and state institution alleging rampant corruption under the former government.

He further claimed that opposition MPs were trying to prevent his office from recovering stolen assets in overseas bank accounts.

“A lot of the government’s money was taken through corrupt [means] and saved in the banks of England, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia,” Naeem claimed.


President Nasheed nominates Ali Rasheed Umar for Auditor General

The President’s Office has nominated former Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) President Ali Rasheed Umar as the new Auditor General.

A Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP)-led no-confidence motion in Parliament saw former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem ousted from his post last month, shortly after he announced corruption allegations involving former president Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and senior members of both the former and current government.

Naeem was appointed as the first independent Auditor General in January 2008 by Gayoom, and his appointment was endorsed by the DRP-led Parliament. The post of Auditor General was created by Gayoom due to international pressure regarding the former government’s expenditure.

Umar was appointed president of the ACC in October 2008 and was head of the commission for eight months. Elections were then held for commission members, but he did not submit his name for the elections.

On 25 November 2008, Umar signed on behalf of the ACC, and Naeem as Auditor General, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for technical cooperation activities between the ACC and the Auditor General’s office. Both organisations were to exchange information and work together to eliminate corruption and promote good governance and accountability.

Press Secretary for the President’s Office Mohamed Zuhair confirmed Umar has been nominated by the president and his name has been forwarded to Parliament.

Zuhair said the Majlis should make their decision on whether or not they will endorse his nomination within the week.

“He is a qualified accountant and headed the ACC,” Zuhair said, adding that during the new government’s first week in office, Umar wanted to investigate the President’s Office’s financial records. “He performed very well [with the ACC].”

Zuhair added that Umar has no political affiliations to any party.

An on-going defamation case against Umar is in the Civil Court. Former member of the ACC Hassan Luthfee pressed charges against Umar for defamation, after Luthfee was accused of leaking ACC information for his personal gain.