ACC spent MVR3 million in excess of approved budget, reveals audit

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) spent MVR3.5 million (US$226,978) in excess of the annual budget approved by parliament, the commission’s audit report for 2013 has revealed.

“The overspent amount was facilitated by a budget extension of MVR3,605,647 made to the commission by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury,” explained the report released last week.

“However, it was observed that the parliamentary approval for this budget extension was not obtained as per clause 32(e) of the Public Finance Act.”

The report noted that the ACC Act stipulates that the finance ministry should provide the commission’s budget in accordance with the annual budget passed by parliament.

As a result of “the significance of the matter”, the Auditor General’s Office concluded that the ACC’s expenditures in 2013 were not made “in all material respects, for the achievement of its objectives and for the purposes intended in the budget” and in line with public finance law.

“Extending the budget of the commission by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury without the approval of the parliament negates the objective of approving the budget of public institutions by the parliament as set out in enabling laws of the former,” the report stated.

“It also creates the risk of spending over and above the budget set for the public institutions that could consequently increase the budget deficit.”

In early August, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad revealed that the government was facing “great difficulty in managing the budget deficit” due to shortfalls in anticipated revenue.

The ballooning budget deficit – which Jihad warned could reach MVR4 million (US$260,000) or 10.6 percent of GDP – could affect the government’s ability to pay civil servants, the finance minister had said.

A budget deficit of MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) had been projected in the record MVR17.96 billion budget approved by parliament for this year.

Meanwhile, auditors also found that the ACC renewed an office cleaning contract in violation of public finance regulations.

A contract with its previous cleaner was renewed on September 8, 2013 for a monthly fee of MVR7,420 (US$481).

“This contract was made without obtaining and evaluating estimates from competing vendors,” the report noted.

“According to the commission, seeking new estimates may have increased their cleaning costs.”

However, public finance regulations require estimates to be sought and evaluated from competing bidders for services costing between MVR25,000 (US$1,621) and MVR1.5 million (US$97,276).

“By not following the public finance regulation, the commission has no assurance that it is obtaining the best service at the lowest price.”


New ACC members nominated, PIC members appointed

President Abdulla Yameen has forwarded 5 names to the People’s Majlis for membership of the Anti Corruption Commission.

Current members Hassan Luthfee and Muaviz Rasheed have been renominated along with Aminath Minna, Yazumeed Mohamed, and Sofwath Mohamed. The ACC’s inaugural five-year term is set to end this year.

The president has also appointed three members to the Police Integrity Commission with Ali Nadheem, Fathimath Sareera Ali Shareef, and Mohamed Faruhad receiving letters of appointment at the President’s Office yesterday.

The new members for the five-person commission had been approved by the Majlis earlier this week, while a fourth nominee was rejected.


MPL refused to cooperate in Tourism Minister corruption investigation, says auditor general

Board members of Maldives Ports Limited (MPL) have refused to cooperate with an investigation into corruption allegations against Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb, the Auditor General has said.

Adeeb is accused of abusing his position to obtain MVR77.1 million (US$5 million) from the MPL and US$1 million from Maldives Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), and loaning the money to companies owned by relatives and friends via state-owned tourism promotion company the Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corporation (MMPRC).

Case documents show the MPL board approved the payment to MMPRC.

Auditor General Ibrahim Niyaz said a preliminary report into the case could only be completed with input from MPL board members, but some had refused to answer summons.

“The MPL board did not cooperate with us. Some of them did not answer our summons for investigation,” Niyaz said.

The MPL did, however, provide required documentation, he noted.

MPL CEO Mahdi Imad told news agency Haveeru that he was unaware of summons. He denied any wrongdoing in the transaction, claiming MMPRC was using the rufiyaa to buy dollars for MPL.

“Our company has engaged in buying dollars before. There is nothing to hide in this case,” Mahdi said

Meanwhile, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has said the auditor general’s report was required before the commission could initiate a probe.

Adeeb has not denied involvement in the transaction, but said such transactions were routine between state owned companies in order to avoid purchasing dollars on the black market.

As Tourism Minister he had also helped the state’s primary wholesaler State Trading Organisation (STO) obtain dollars to import goods, he told Minivan News.

“The problem here is that I am being singled out and targeted,” he said, suggesting the unfair “defamation attempt” was linked to his refusal to support certain individuals for the position of speaker of the 18th People’s Majlis.

“There is absolutely no room for anyone to say that I fled with the MMPRC’s coffers,” he continued.

The minister confirmed cheques had bounced, but said the MTDC’s US$1 million had been reimbursed, while MPL had been paid one- third of the owed amount in dollars. The remaining two thirds are due in June, he added.

The individual who lodged the complaint questioned the MPL and MMPRC’s justification, claiming: “The MMPRC is run on state funds, and as the company does not earn in dollars, it is highly questionable that the MPL gave the company money to buy dollars,”

MPL had also transferred rufiyaa to the MMPRC at a time when the company had failed to pay dividends to the government. The company had argued it did not have money in its accounts, the complainant said.

They further alleged the MMPRC Managing Director Abdulla Ziyath personally went to MPL with the company’s seal to collect the cheques, demonstrating “the act was a planned act, for personal gain by the leaders of MPL and MMPRC.”

“When one company’s MD personally goes to receive funds from another company, it is evident this act is committed in secrecy, behind the company’s employees’ backs.”

As soon as the MMPRC obtained the money, it was transferred in two installments to a company owned by Adeeb’s friend called Millennium Capital Management without any bank checks or security procedures, the complainant said.

The US$1 million obtained from MTDC was loaned to a company owned by Adeeb’s father called Montillion International Pvt Ltd. Adeeb used to own majority of the shares in the company, but on becoming tourism minister in 2012, transferred all of his shares to his father Abdul Ghafoor Adam.

The complainant does not appear to have submitted any supporting evidence for the transfer of funds from MMPRC to the two companies.


ACC orders CSC to exclude Transport Authority director from reviewing bids

The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has ordered the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to exclude Transport Authority Director General Sami Ageel from reviewing bids related to any offices under the jurisdiction of the civil service.

Local media reports that the ACC sent this order on May 7, following which the commission has notified the Transport Ministry. Sami has been alleged to be involved in a number of corruption cases.

While refraining to provide additional information, ACC President Hassan Luthfy told local media that the order was sent in relation to a case currently under investigation.


MACL can sue former chairman over GMR airport charge decision, says Civil Court

The Civil Court has ruled the Maldives Airports Company (MACL) can sue its former chairman for allowing the disputed Airport Development Charge (ADC) to be deducted from Indian infrastructure giant GMR’s concession payments during it’s ill-fated agreement.

MACL alleges ‘Kuda Bandhey’ Ibrahim Saleem’s decision to be an act of ‘Ultra Vires’ – meaning that Saleem had acted beyond his permitted authority.

The ruling came following a procedural issue taken by Saleem said he was being wrongfully charged claiming the lawsuit was filed in violation to Article 18 (c) of the Contract Act and Article 74 Company Act.

The Contract Act states a clause requiring a party to refer to arbitration any dispute arising from the contract shall be valid, while the Company Act says the court has a right to issue orders holding personally liable the directors of the company to commit an offense in the name of the company.

But the Civil Court ruling stated that the Company Act does not prohibit the company chairman from being sued personally.

The airports company sued Saleem after he signed a letter sent to GMR on January 5 2012 stating that the ADC and the insurance surcharge fee had been deducted from GMR’s concession payments.

In late 2011, the then-opposition Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) had filed a successful Civil Court case blocking GMR from charging US$25 charge for outgoing passengers – stipulated in its agreement with the government – on the grounds that it was a tax not authorised by parliament.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration subsequently chose to honour the original contract, instructing GMR to deduct the ADC revenues from the concession fees due to the state-owned MACL while it sought to appeal the Civil Court ruling.

However, with the Nasheed’s controversial resignation coming just one month later, the opposition soon inherited the contractual problem.

Dr Mohamed Waheed’s government then received a succession of bills from the airport developer throughout 2012, despite its insistence that the January 5 letter from MACL outlining the new arrangement was no longer valid.

In December 2012, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) filed a case with the Prosecutor General’s Office over Saleem’s decision to allow GMR to deduct the ADC from concession fees owed to the state.

As part of the filed case (Dhivehi), the ACC was seeking reimbursement of MVR 353.8 million (US$22.9 million) from Saleem and former Finance Minister Mohamed Shihab over the alleged misuse of authority it claimed had led to significant financial loses for the state.

These losses were used as justification for the contract’s eventual termination in December 2012, for which GMR is currently seeking compensation via a Singapore court of arbitration.

According to the case filed by the ACC, former Finance Minister Shihab stands accused of misusing his ministerial authority to benefit a third party by allowing GMR to deduct the charges between October 2011 and September 2012.

The ACC has also accused Saleem violating the company’s rules. According to the ACC’s case, normal procedure for MACL would be to have the company’s board of directors pass a resolution allowing for consent to be given to deduct the ADC.


President Yameen urges ACC to expedite investigations involving government projects

President Abdulla Yameen has urged the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) to expedite investigations involving infrastructure projects worth “hundreds of millions of rufiyaa” as the government is facing losses due to delays.

Speaking at the inauguration ceremony for a land reclamation project in the island of Thulusdhoo in Kaafu atoll this morning, President Yameen appealed to the ACC to complete investigations as soon as possible in order to enable the government to resume projects halted at the commission’s orders.

“When these big projects are halted, the preliminary investigation or assessment should be completed within a certain period,” he said.

“For example, if work on the IGMH [Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital] building is stopped more than once because of problems involving corruption, it is our request for the Anti-Corruption Commission to do it in a way that does not [stall the project].”

He added that the new building was necessary for the government to provide better services from the main tertiary hospital in the capital.

“Doubtless there might be matters that could facilitate corruption in that project. But that is not something our government would encourage or do,” he said.

If the commission suspected corruption, Yameen said that his administration would comply with ACC instructions to halt projects pending an investigation and welcome the findings.

Yameen stressed the importance of the commission’s determining a “timeline” for investigations.

The ACC has told the state broadcaster, however, that the commission has always endeavoured to complete investigations as quickly as possible in order to avoid losses to the public and the government.

The commission noted that recurring problems hindering investigations included having to provide a legally-mandated period for accused parties to respond to allegations after seeking legal counsel, as well as difficulties in obtaining relevant documents from state institutions.

The commission also insisted that it has always shown a way to continue with halted projects, which was also the case with the new IGMH building.

In March, the ACC ordered a halt to the construction of the new IGMH building by Amin Construction Pvt Ltd for a second time following complaints alleging that the renegotiated contract was MVR16 million in excess of the budgeted amount.

President Yameen has meanwhile said that his administration would not pursue corruption investigations against officials of the previous government.

He added, however that the government would not interfere with the work of the auditor general or the ACC.

On the project launched today to reclaim 33 hectares of land in Thulusdhoo, Yameen noted that island would double in size at the completion of the project.

“We are creating an asset. An asset is something you have to make full use of. If not, it could be lost and become worthless,” he said.

The new land would create economic opportunities and allow the government to provide housing for residents of Thulusdhoo, he said.

Projects for the construction of a harbour as well as water and sewerage in Thulusdhoo will begin this year, the president pledged.

Yameen also reiterated his call to both the public and local councils to put aside political differences and cooperate with the government’s implementation of development projects.


Malé night market to continue despite alleged corruption

The Malé night market will continue despite the Anti Corruption Commission’s (ACC) instruction not to continue with the deal, the Malé City Council has said.

Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed told Minivan News their legal advisors had told them that the ACC does not have the authority stop the agreement with GoMedia from going ahead.

“They asked us to stop certain things, but it has to be finalised from the court,” Shifa said.

“So according to legal officers the Supreme Court has taken a role in saying the ACC is not a place to stop any projects,” she stated.

Shifa referred to a Supreme Court verdict in September 2013 in which the apex court said the ACC does not have the authority to stop a contract between the Maldives government and a Malaysian mobile security firm Nexbis to establish a border control system.

The ACC is consequently planning to take legal action against the Council and GoMedia.

Speaking to Vnews, ACC President Hassan Luthufee said that the Go Media agreement should not be followed by any means and that the agreement’s maintenance was a direct attempt to abet a criminal offense.

“We have forwarded the Go Media case to PG (Prosecutor General) Office for prosecution. If the present Malé City Council members are speaking with this intent, we have to investigate and prosecute them as well,” Luthufee said.

Council disputes corruption allegations

The ACC had stated that the agreement made between Malé City Council and Go Media was compiled in manner that favored some parties and paved way for possible corruption.

However, Shifa yesterday stated that investigations into corruption had not been carried out sufficiently, and questioned the thoroughness of the ACC’s research.

“The Major has sent letter telling [ACC] to redo the whole investigation,” revealed Shifa.

“When the ACC started looking there was one single letter, by a single councilor. The ACC have not really gone into depth,” she added. “They need to check all the documents.”

The arrangements for the market are well underway with many of the stalls already let out to traders, and stopping the plans now could damage many small business owners, Shifa said.

GoMedia has rented out 450 stalls and three canteens at the rate of MVR 4000 (US$ 259) each.

“Small business have already bought tables,” she explained, “we should not disappoint them. We have to consider the fact that agreement was signed.”

“The ACC’s main responsibility is to check if the project is going on properly,” Shifa continued.

She explained that any grievances the ACC may have should be put forth to the Prosecutor General.


ACC seeks prosecutions over Malé City night market contract

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) has asked the Prosecutor General’s (PG) office to press corruption charges against three former Malé City councillors in relation to the 2013 night market.

In addition to former councillors Ibrahim Shuja, Ahmed Hameed ‘Fly’, and Ahmed Samah Rasheed, the ACC asked the PG office to press charges against the council’s Assistant Directors Aishath Jumana Mohamed Rasheed and Ahmed Mizhath Naeem.

The three ex-councillors and senior staff are accused of corruption in the awarding of a contract to Go Media Pvt Ltd to manage last year’s night market. The market is held annually before Ramazan, usually on the south eastern side of the capital island.

In a letter to Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab – shared with local media – the ACC explained that Go Media Pvt Ltd was registered eight days before the city council’s announcement seeking a party to organise the night market.

However, the council awarded full marks to the company for experience during its bid evaluation process, the ACC revealed.

While the committee that evaluated the proposal determined that Go Media’s team had experience in organising such events, the ACC noted that the company did not submit any documentation as proof of experience.

Moreover, the council’s request for information document did not state that marks would be awarded for experience.

The two assistant directors were on the committee that evaluated the proposal.

Based on its findings, the ACC concluded that the contract was awarded fraudulently for the benefit of a third party.

The ACC also asked the PG office to prosecute Malé City Council Secretary General Mohamed Anwar as the agreement signed with Go Media included provisions that were not included in the council’s announcement.

Of the three ex-councillors facing corruption charges, Shujau and Hameed were elected on Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party tickets in 2011 before defecting to the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and he Jumhooree Party, respectively. Former Deputy Mayor Samah was elected on an MDP ticket.

Shujau meanwhile contested in last month’s parliamentary elections as the MDP’s candidate for the Galolhu South constituency, losing to incumbent MP Ahmed Mahloof.


MBC asks DhiTV to respond to the case filed by ACC

The Maldives Broadcasting Commission (MBC) has asked private TV station DhiTV to respond to a case file by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) alleging that the TV station had misled the public.

Speaking to Minivan News today, ACC President Hassan Luthfee said that the commission had filed the case with MBC after DhiTV had irresponsibly criticised the commission.

“It is alright to criticise me, but the Anti-Corruption Commission is a state institution and everyone must respect all the state institutions,’’ he said. “We accept criticism but it also has to be done professionally.’’

Luthfee said he does not remember the exact quotes broadcast on DhiTV.

“We normally do not give any information about cases before the investigation is concluded and I do not know how the media knew that we filed a case with the MBC,’’ he said.

Furthermore, Luthfee said that everyone must work together to correct issues with the state institutions, and that criticism alone could not solve any issue.

Online newspaper Sun reported that the MBC had sent a letter to DhiTV asking it to respond to the allegations by March 13.

Sun reported that the ACC had filed the case with MBC claiming that on January 20, 2014, DhiTV aired a TV program called ‘Talk of the town’ in which the TV station had broadcast content that was disrespectful of the corruption watchdog.

According to Sun, MBC told DhiTV that the station was alleged to have violated the MBC Code of Practice Article (3)(1), though it had not yet concluded its investigations.

Last month, MBC asked DhiTV and its sister company – the radio station DhiFM Plus – to stop using upside down images of Elections Commission (EC) President Fuwad Thowfeek.

MBC President Mohamed Shaheeb sent a letter to the two stations advising them not to broadcast anything in a way that might encourage unrest, and to keep in mind that the parliament elections were ahead.

MBC gave similar advice to the two stations in November after they had shown photos of three members of the EC – Thowfeek, Ahmed Fayaz, and Ali Mohamed Manik – upside down with a caption alleging that they had committed electoral fraud in the annulled September 7 presidential election.

Following the incident, MBC sent a circular to all broadcasters noting that complaints regarding the disrespectful use of photos had led to it taking action against media outlets for violating the broadcasting code.

In January this year MBC ordered both the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) aligned Raajje TV and the Jumhooree Party-aligned VTV to issue apologies for content broadcast during the prolonged presidential election.

While Raajje TV was found to have aired content defamatory to the Supreme Court, VTV was asked to issue an apology for material defaming the MDP’s presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed, as well  as MP Rozaina Adam, and EC President Thowfeek.

Broadcasting any image or video footage that disrespects the honor or sanctity of a person or a group of persons is in violation of MBC’s Code of Practice.

The broadcasting commission is a 7-member body entrusted with implementation of broadcasting policy, regulation of broadcasting industry, and the promotion of responsible broadcasting, was formed in 2010 under the Broadcasting Act.