MDP will not respect separation of powers, says President Yameen

The Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) did not respect separation of powers during its three years in government, President Abdulla Yameen has said, urging voters to consider the track record of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s administration before choosing parliamentary candidates.

Speaking at the Progressive Coalition’s parliamentary campaign launching rally on Thursday night, President Yameen strongly criticised the opposition party’s campaign slogan – “Vote for the scale [of justice] for separation of powers” – contending that an MDP-controlled parliament would exert undue influence on other state institutions.

“Our rival opposition party is saying that they are coming to the People’s Majlis to separate powers. No doubt separation of powers is important in modern democratic systems. Separation of powers is a basis we all believe. But let us consider how responsibly and the extent to which powers were separated during the three years of the MDP government,” he said.

“We have to learn from past experience and they have shown very well, in much detail, during their three years how they want to separate powers in the future.”

The state of affairs that prevailed in the country at the end of the MDP’s three years in government should not have been what it was if the party had ruled democratically, Yameen argued.

Yameen said he “could not believe” that national debt could rise from MVR5 billion (US$324 million) to over MVR30 billion (US$1,195 million) during a democratic government.

MDP in office

President Yameen claimed that the MDP government attempted to merge the three powers of state during its time in office.

Yameen referred to the military’s controversial detention of Criminal Court Chief Judge Abdulla Mohamed in January 2012, which he contended was prompted by “verdicts or punishments not being delivered the way the president wanted.”

Moreover, the arrest of two opposition MPs in June 2010 “showed the extent to which political space was offered” to members of the People’s Majlis, Yameen said.

Following the en masse resignation of Nasheed’s cabinet on June 29, police arrested then-MP Yameen and MP Gasim Ibrahim over allegations of bribery and treason. Both MPs were subsequently released by Judge Abdulla.

Yameen also referred to the delayed appointment of the Anti-Corruption Commission’s (ACC) President Hassan Luthfy, who was eventually sworn in 24 months after parliament approved him for the post.

After President Nasheed recalled Luthfy’s name and proposed a substitute nominee in late 2009, parliament rejected the substitute and approved Luthfy to the commission.

The President’s Office delayed swearing-in the new commissioner as it sought a Supreme Court ruling. Yameen alleged that the appointment was held up to prevent the ACC from functioning.

MDP MPs have not shown “even a small example of separating powers,” Yameen continued, accusing opposition MPs of obstructing the government and blocking development projects.

“Dark clouds” on horizon, warns vice president

Yameen also accused the opposition party of refusing to cooperate with the government on confirming the appointment of a new prosecutor general.

“So I have to say that it might be that they are obstructing [the appointment] because there are cases involving [opposition MPs]. This is why I am saying they are not trying to separate powers. What we are seeing is the merging of powers,” he said.

In his speech at the rally, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed contended that MDP MPs contesting the upcoming parliamentary elections endorsed former President Nasheed’s alleged “inhumane activities” and “insults” to Islam and the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh).

Voting or campaigning for such MPs was “without a doubt aiding and abetting sin and strife,” he said.

Repeatedly urging voters to consider the MDP’s track record before voting on March 22, Dr Jameel called on the public to vote for coalition candidates to empower citizens, defend the constitution and protect Islam.

Reiterating a central theme from last year’s presidential campaign, Dr Jameel insisted that the MDP would pursue an agenda to eradicate Islam from the Maldives.

The vice president also said he could see “dark clouds gathering” on the horizon, warning of arson in the capital Malé and judges “tied with rope and dragged through the streets.”

Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – figurehead and leader of the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives – meanwhile praised the candidates fielded by the PPM and its coalition partners Jumhooree Party and the Maldives Development Alliance.

Gayoom stressed that the Progressive Coalition must “work together” in the parliamentary campaign to secure a majority in the People’s Majlis, adding that government supporters contesting as independents would split the vote and benefit the MDP.

“Our three parties are working together as one party. We are working towards one objective. So there is no doubt that candidates contesting from our parties will have the full support of the other two parties,” said Gayoom.

“That is why I am saying that the foundation of the efforts we are commencing is working together, helping one another, and cooperating with each other.”


Defence Ministry audit reveals MVR6.78 million worth unlawful purchases

The Ministry of Defence and National Security audit report for the year 2011 has revealed that the ministry unlawfully purchased goods worth MVR6.78 million through Maldives National Defence Force’s (MNDF) cooperative society SIFCO.

The report states that MVR4.7 million worth goods were purchased through SIFCO, contrary to article 8.14 of state finance regulation which states that goods and services below MVR25,000 should be purchased only after reviewing proposals from at least three interested parties, and with an official written justification for the choice made.

It also said MVR2 million worth goods were purchased against article 8.15 of the regulation, which states goods and services above MVR25,000 should be purchased through a publicly announced competitive bidding process.

The auditor general (AG) recommended action against responsible persons as per the Public Finance Act

The report also highlighted that MVR1,200,324 was paid to military personnel on leave, particularly to those studying overseas, against relevant rules and regulations.

Salary and allowances worth MVR344,299  was said to have been paid to a defense adviser posted at the Maldivian High Commission in India for days without any record of attending work.

The AG’s opinion given in the report said the ministry’s 2011 budget was not spent within the set limits set, nor was it spent to fulfill the given activities and objectives.

The AG also questioned the validity of financial statements declared by the ministry, stating that the “statement of liabilities” and “statement of assets” declared “does not truthfully reflect” the actual assets and liabilities of the ministry.

The ministry’s figures were MVR39.8 million as assets and MVR29.8 million as liabilities for the year 2011.

The document highlighted that resources donated for the SAARC summit, which can be considered as tangible assets, were were not valued and included in the financial statements, and that special military equipment which could be considered the same were also not included in the statements.

In addition to that MVR122.7 million which should be included in capital expenditure were included as recurrent expenditure (as spent on seminars and meetings).

The final budget for the ministry in 2011 was MVR834 million, of which MVR789.47 million was spent within the year.


Government guarantee for GMR, Heavy Load illegal

The government issued a guarantee for Indian infrastructure giant GMR in 2011 and Heavy-Load Maldives Pvt Ltd in 2010 against the Public Finance Act, the Audit General’s Report on Statement of Government Guarantees has revealed.

GMR was granted a US$ 511 million contract to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) in 2011 under President Mohamed Nasheed, but President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan declared the contract void ab initio in 2012 and gave the company seven days to leave the country.

Heavy Load is owned by opposition Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) chairperson and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

According to Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury issued a guarantee for a US$ 358 million loan from a Singaporean bank without any prior assessments the guarantee may have on the economy or the president’s permission.

Regarding the Heavy Load guarantee, the report said the Finance Ministry issued a ‘no objection letter’ the State Bank of India (SBI) concerning a Letter of Credit (LC) opened for Heavy-load.

The LC, amounting to USD 206, 400 (MVR 2,652,240) was issued from a USD 50 million  provided by the government of India and managed by the State Bank of India (SBI) Male’ branch.

The arrangement was for SBI to provide US Dollar LCs for for imports from India when the importers deposited the equivalent amount upfront in Maldivian Rufiya.

The ‘no objection letter’ sent by MOFT to SBI concerning Heavy-Load stated that company would settle the MVR equivalent when their LC expired.

The Auditor General’s report noted that the letter was in contravention to Public Finance Act and that the State Minister who signed the said letter did not have the authority to provide such a guarantee on behalf of the Ministry and, as required by the act, prior approval from the President was not sought in issuing it.

The report stated that both guarantees were not declared in the Statement of Guarantees, despite the Public Finance Act requiring all such guarantees be recorded.

It also said when the company had defaulted in settling the LC, SBI made the Finance Ministry liable as the guarantor, but the Ministry failed to recover the MVR equivalent proceeds of the LC (MVR 2,652, 240) from Heavy-Load.

The Ministry was recommended in the report to take “appropriate steps including legal action if required” against Heavy-load to recover the defaulted payment on the LC.


“Poor financial record keeping” poses challenges to audit state enterprises: AG

The Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim has expressed concern over poor record keeping at State Owned Enterprises (SOEs), and said the public is entitled to know how much the state makes from an enterprise it owns or if the enterprise is making a profit or loss.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Niyaz said the independent audit office faces severe challenges in auditing SOEs, especially those in which the state is a minority share holder.

In some cases, even when a company is liquidated, there are no financial statements or audits, he said.

“As you know, there are over 80 companies in which the government owns shares, including minority share holding enterprises. While we don’t have adequate legal authority to appoint external auditors to the companies in which the state is a minority share-holder, the Audit Act allows us to do so with majority State-owned enterprises,” Niyaz explained.

It was the norm of the board of directors to appoint an external auditor, inhibiting the auditor’s work as they are bound to follow instructions from and report to the company’s board. However. starting in 2011 the Auditor General’s Office (AGO) has begun appointing external auditors to SOEs, thereby giving auditors more protection and independence.

The AGO will have auditors at all SOE’s except for Island Aviation for the 2013 accounts, Niyaz said.

Annual audits

The Company Act mandates audits be conducted annually, however there is no way to see how many SOEs are faring as they do not even produce financial statements, Niyaz said.

“Many of the companies which have been formed recently are in this very poor state of financial record keeping,” he continued. Even while some of these companies are now to be liquidated, there is no record of financial statements, nor has there been any audits. This is state resources we are speaking of. The people have a right to know what is being done with this money. Usually, public listed companies get more attention as they sell shares to people. How we see it, though, is that every citizen has ownership of state enterprises, and thereby public interest is much higher in such companies,” he said.

SOE’s must be far more transparent and accountable than listed companies, Niyaz stressed

The AGO has now commenced work on preparing a report documenting the status of all SOEs, he added.

“The public is entitled to get the basic information as to how much the state makes from an enterprise it owns, whether the enterprise is making profit or loss, whether it is accountable and transparent.”

Unexplained share-holding

Niyaz said there were many unexplained cases where the state owned minority shares, especially in the tourism industry.

“There is room to suspect that the legal provision within tourism laws of special provisions in the assignment of islands for tourism sector if the state owns some shares of the company or island is being abused,” Niyaz alleged.

Challenges in auditing state enterprises

Niyaz said that the Auditor General’s office has a practice of submitting a detailed work plan of all programs planned for the upcoming year with their budget proposal, and that the special audit of state-owned enterprises has not been included in the submitted proposal.

He said that his office will need to find means to fund the process in other ways, as plans for this were made after the budget proposal had already been submitted in late October.

Niyaz further noted the lack of cooperation extended to external auditors from the management and board of some state owned companies.

“Jobs for politicians”

The management of SOEs need to be strengthened, especially that of the board of directors, Niyaz said. SOEs must not be formed to create jobs for politicians, Niyaz said.

“As evident, if the top management of a company, enterprise or even an institution keeps being changed every now and then, it proves to be a strategical loss to that entity. Each of these management will have plans for its development, but if this keeps changing frequently, there will be no stability there. Therefore, there really needs to be a change in how the state runs the enterprises it holds shares in or owns,” he continued.

The state must end the appointment of individuals to management level jobs at SOEs on the basis of their political affiliation, Niyaz said.

“Even the board must consist of financially literate people who understand what it means to run a business, if the company’s governance is to be improved. I will give you an example of the level some current board members have, and this doesn’t change no matter which government is in place. A team from my office met with a company’s board members recently, after multiple attempts to meet them previously. For purposes of auditing, they asked the board for the financial statement. Members of the board then said at my staff members, ‘who do you think you are to come here and question us? We don’t have to give you any financial statements’ and then threatened to throw them out of a window. This is the calibre of some appointees to the boards of state enterprises. It is way beyond their authority to speak in that manner to a team of auditors who are their to fulfill legally stipulated duties,” Niyaz said.

Parliament initiative to run audits

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee Chair Abdulla Jabir told Minivan News today that the committee has rescheduled the initial debate on the matter from Sunday to Tuesday, for which both the Auditor General and Attorney General Mohamed Anil will be summoned.

According to Jabir, the objectives of conducting a special audit are to have all state companies operating under a single holding company and to find a way to liquidate companies that fail to make profit.

Attorney General Mohamed Anil was not responding to calls at the time of press.


Audit of Waste Management Company uncovers embezzlement, “wasteful” expenditure

An audit of the government owned Waste Management Company has uncovered severe mismanagement and embezzlement.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed had established the company by presidential decree on 15 December 2008 with assets worth MVR 1.5 billion (US$ 97 million).

However, “Since its inception, the company has done nothing to achieve its aims,” Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim has said in a new report.

The company’s sole expenditure in the period 2009- 2011 was on wages, the report notes, adding “state expenditure on the Waste Management Corporation Ltd did not bring any benefit and was completely wasteful.”

With the election of island and atoll councils, the Finance Ministry had recommended the company be dissolved in 2011 as the Local Government Act charged local government with waste management. However, the President’s Office advised against the dissolution, the report said.

In 2010, a European Union and World Bank funded “South Ari-Atoll Regional Waste Management” Project to establish a waste management systems in Alif Dhaal Atoll Bodukaashihuraa was transferred from the Ministry of Housing and Environment to the Waste Management Company on President Nasheed’s orders.

But to this day, the Waste Management Company has not done any work on the project, the report found.

Further, an unnamed board member had embezzled MVR610,000 (US$ 39,354) by doctoring cheques, the report said. The board member was the sole employee in charge of the company’s finances.

The Auditor General’s Office was unable to carry out a full financial audit because the company had failed to submit its annual financial report, the report said.

Moreover, the company had failed to keep proper documentation of its expenditure and revenue or minutes of its board meetings or an asset register.

Expenditure on travel abroad was not documented, while employees were not registered with the pensions scheme as mandated by the Pensions Act, the report said.

Niyaz has recommended criminal charges be filed against all parties who participated in, were accomplice to,and/or were negligent in the embezzlement and wastage of state funds.

He has further called on the government to decide on the company’s future as soon as possible.

Governance NGO Transparency Maldives released a report last week revealed that 83 percent of people surveyed felt corruption had increased or stayed the same during the past two years.

Speaking at the event to launch the Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) report, President of the Anti-Corruption Commission Hussain Luthfy urged more transparency within government companies in order to foster an atmosphere in which corruption can be addressed proactively.

He suggested that government owned companies often pass resolutions to obstruct the ACC’s investigations.

Transparency Maldives, the local chapter of Transparency International (TI) describes the GCB as one of the tools it uses to better understand corruption.

The group’s most widely used indicator – the Corruption Perceptions Index  – was released last week. For the second consecutive year the Maldives was not ranked after TI was unable to gather the necessary data.


Finance Ministry’s MVR 300 million budget-support loan “illegal”

A report by the by the Auditor General has revealed that President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration violated finance laws in securing a domestic loan worth MVR300 million (US$ 19.45 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) as part of its budget-support program.

The report (dhivehi) – based on the audit published at the Auditor General’s (AG) website last Sunday – claimed then Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had not obtained the required approval from the president and the parliament.

Jihad has hit back, claiming that the loan was taken to avoid financial disaster. He also suggested that the mandated processes for approving government loans had only been introduced to thwart the MDP government in 2010.

The audit was conducted following a request from the parliament’s Public Finance Committee, after opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer filed the matter at the committee in July 2012.

Section 5 of the Public Finance Act 2006 (as amended in 2010) states that any loan or credit facility which either the government or a government-owned corporation wishes to obtain, can be taken only after presidential and parliamentary approval.

The audit report stated that despite the legal requirement, Jihad – recently reappointed to the same position by the recently elected President Abdulla Yameen – had signed the letter of sanction on May 28, 2012, one day before the request for approval of the loan was sent to President Waheed.

According to the report, Jihad signed the final loan agreement with BML a day later on May 29, 2012.

A measure taken to prevent a financial disaster

In his defense, the Finance Minister has told local media that the loan was taken out of necessity, to prevent the state from financial disaster.

Jihad claimed that during May 2012, the government faced enormous difficulties following a decline in cash flow. By the end of the month in question, the government had almost exhausted its finances, said Jihad.

Furthermore, the minister claimed that he had consulted with President Waheed and decided to take the loan, but that the parliament had gone to recess.

“At that critical time, we had no other option. That was a measure that had to be taken in order to keep the state running. Hadn’t we done that, the state employees would not have been paid the month’s wages. We ought to consider the situation at the time. At that time we weren’t even able to obtain a loan from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA),” Jihad told Haveeru.

Blasting the current requirement of parliamentary approval before taking loans, Jihad claimed that no other modern democratic states followed such a practice. Because of the requirement, the government had lost several loans and had become a disgrace in front of most of the international financial organisations, Jihad added.

He also admitted that the amendment brought to the Public Finance Act in 2010 during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed was intended to disrupt the government’s functioning.

President Nasheed at the time had no choice but to ratify the amendment as his party was outnumbered when the vote was taken in parliament. The then-opposition now comprises most of the current governing coalition.

Jihad also criticized the AG’s report itself: “I am the Minister. But when the report was compiled, [Auditor General] had asked nothing from me. Of what had happened? So how can this report be accurate?”


The report also revealed that although the government had formally sought parliamentary approval of the loan on June 13, 2012, by this date the Finance Ministry had already withdrawn the first tranche – MVR200 million (US$ 12.97 million) out of the MVR300 million.

The government withdrew the remainder on June 20, 2012, the report stated.

Furthermore, the report claimed that in the letter sent to the president by Jihad, approval was sought for the loan with a request that it be made part of the US$65 million (MVR 1 billion) overseas loan that gained parliamentary approval as part of the 2012 national budget.

The report claimed that the conditions for the domestic loan from BML, and that of the proposed US$65 million overseas loan differed significantly.

Among the significant differences highlighted in the report, parliament had approved the US$65 million overseas loan with an interest rate of 2 percent while the BML loan had an interest rate of 9 percent subject to annual reviews.

Furthermore, repayment of the US$65 million loan was to commence within 10 years, while the BML loan required the repayment within just two years.

“Therefore, the loan of MVR300 million taken from the Bank of Maldives in the year 2012 had been taken without the approval of the parliament and the president, disregarding the decisions made by the legislature and the Public Finance Act,” concluded the report.

The Auditor General furthermore requested the authorities to take action against those found responsible for the misconduct.

The current government meanwhile has sought for the approval of a US$29 million (MVR 447 million) budget-support loan that is to be taken from the Bank of Ceylon, for the 2014 state budget.


Leaked Grant Thorton report reveals beneficiaries of BML’s risky pre-2008 lending

Additional reporting by JJ Robinson

A leaked draft of a report into the Bank of Maldives’ (BML) lending practices prior to 2008 has identified those behind potentially destabilising breaches of both BML and Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) guidelines.

The asset recovery investigation by forensic accounting company Grant Thornton, drawing on the 2008 Attorney General’s report on BML, concludes that it would have been “impossible for the [BML] board to not have been influenced” in the granting of significant exposures in the form of credit to a select coterie of Gayoom-era affiliates.

The document reveals well-connected individuals bypassing BML rules regarding the handling of non-performing assets, with a number of large companies belonging to politically-active businessmen continuing to receive credit despite failing to satisfactorily meet previous repayment obligations.

“The large exposures that BML held, were in the main, due to members of the board or their relatives,” the report found.

“Due to the fact that the largest exposures of the bank were from Board members and/or their families, it would be unrealistic for the Board to provide any clear independent review of the banking facilities provided, and would in [our] view form conflict of interest issues for those Board Members involved,” it added.

The report names a number of individuals and business groups who benefitted from the state bank’s loan and overdraft facilities towards the end of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 year tenure as head of state.

The government was handed a US$10million (MVR 154.2 million) invoice from Grant Thornton last year in what former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed told Minivan News was a penalty fee for stopping the investigation initiated under Gayoom’s successor Mohamed Nasheed.

Prior to the alleged request from the current government to halt the investigation, Grant Thornton had uncovered evidence of an alleged US$800 million oil trade involving former head of the State Trading Organisation (STO) and current presidential hopeful Abdulla Yameen. Shaheed alleged that the accounting firm was contracted to receive a percentage of any assets recovered as a result of its work.

The private parties named in Grant Thorton’s BML assessment include the Sun Group, Lily Group, Sultans of the Seas, VA Group, Afeef Group, Villa Group, Thasmeen Ali, VB Group, and Rainbow.

“Many of the above parties benefited from loans that were used to assist in purchasing leases for resorts, related tourism businesses etc, of which would not have been achieved without the connections held by certain individuals,” the report said.

The report also makes particular mention of the role of Ibrahim Gasim, both Finance Minister and non-executive BML board member at the time of the majority of cases documented within the Grant Thornton report.

Gasim, who is also standing as the Jumhoree Party (JP) presidential candidate in next month’s election, would have been responsible for the appointment of the majority of the BML board at this time.

Grant Thornton’s report revealed that Gasim’s Villa Group had been loaned MVR481,299,571 (US$37,601,520) as of October 31st 2008, representing 32.4 percent of the bank’s entire capital.

This represents one of a number of examples of such exposure featured in the report, despite the Bank’s acquiescence in 2006 to an MMA request to reduce any credit guaranteed to individual or related group borrowers to 30 percent of overall capital.

After repeated lobbying, the MMA increased this amount to 40 percent. Grant Thornton suggested that this extension request was due to the fact that a number of the groups mentioned in its report were already exceeding the original lower limit.

In rejecting one of BML’s requests for an increased credit exposure limit, the MMA wrote that “such concentration of credit is far in excess of the legal lending limits of the bank and it could seriously threaten the bank’s position, and the stability of the whole financial sector,” the leaked document stated.

Even with this increase, Sun Group is reported to have exceeded this limit after January 2008, with loans and overdraft facilities reaching  MVR 607,345,442 (US$46,879,400) as of 31 October 2008.

“This amounted to 40.8 percent of the Bank’s capital as at 31 October 2008,” the report observed.

Loans and overdraft facilities provided to Afeef Group totalled MVR 245,123,414 (US$19,150,266) as of October 31, 2008 – approximately 16.5 percent of BML’s total capital at the time.

Sun Group Chairman and majority shareholder Ahmed Shiyam’s Maldivian Development Alliance (MDA) meanwhile this week announced its decision to form a coalition the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), headed by former President Gayoom.

Alterations to BML’s internal loan approval mechanisms for board members in May 2007 resulted in the bypassing of the bank’s Credit Committee.

“This effectively meant that those Board Members that had applied for credit facilities were approving their own loans,” stated the draft report.

BML board members complicit in self-approving their own credit lines include Mohamed Ahmed Didi (Sultans Group shareholder), Ahmed Hamza (Director of the VA Group), and Gasim (Chairman of the Villa Group).

Director Mohamed Adil also features prominently, being cited in one particular example of a board meeting in which he approved the re-financing of the Sultan Group’s debt at the same time as being the group’s major director/shareholder.

BML’s recovery

In the intervening years, BML wrote off multiple toxic non-performing assets and returned to profitability, largely by outright ceasing to pay dividends to shareholders for almost five years.

The Bank’s board approved a MVR 50 million (US$3.23 million) interim dividend to shareholders in July 2013, the first since 2008.

“This marks the end of a painful and challenging journey that began in 2009 when the bank reported record level non-performing loans. However, in recent years Bank of Maldives has reported record level earnings and operating profit and the company returned to profit in 2012,” read a statement from BML.

BML’s former CEO Peter Horton, a UK banker appointed in February 2011 with extensive experience tackling distressed portfolios and problem lending across Africa as part of Barclay’s corporate turnaround team, resigned in August 2013 to head up Bermuda Commercial Bank.

“The profitability and dividend payment will be sustainable going forward,” said Horton in the bank’s July statement. “This is an interim dividend and at MVR 9.29 [a share] for the half year places us in a strong position to pay the highest full year dividend in the Bank’s recent history at year end”.

Download the leaked GT report


SAARC Audit report failed to account for grant aid: MDP

The opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has slammed an audit report on the expenses of the 2011 SAARC Summit released recently by the Auditor General, alleging the report was factually inaccurate and had based its findings on erroneous information.

The report (Dhivehi) –  compiled through audits of expenditure by the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the President’s Office and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) – revealed several financial discrepancies by then MDP-led government including an overspend of more than MVR 430 million (US$27.9 million) on the event’s allocated budget.

The report claimed that former President Mohamed Nasheed’s government spent MVR 667,874,870.84 (US$ 43.3 million) on the summit – 188.82 percent more than the MVR 231,240,000 (US$14.99 million) budget passed by parliament.

Others inconsistencies included payment of MVR 61.8 million (US$4 million) more the amount agreed for the construction of the Equatorial Convention Centre built for the summit, financial losses incurred by the government, violations of Public Finance Act and Public Finance Regulation and wasteful spending.

The Auditor General in the report also made several recommendations including the recovery of money spent, as well as urging action against those found responsible for the expenses.

Former President Mohamed Nasheed previously dismissed the political bickering by his opponents regarding the findings, contending that his government had not embezzled state funds but admitting it was possible money had been spent contrary to the Public Finance Act.

“Since the ratification of the 2008 constitution, and since the beginning of word to word enforcement of laws that came after the ratification, it is quite possible that there may be certain things carried out in contrast with the public finance act. This is because senior officials of the government wanted things to get done quickly,” Nasheed said at the time.

In a press conference held last Monday evening, MDP government’s Housing Minister Mohamed Aslam slammed the Auditor General over the findings, claiming he had been “negligent” and “irresponsible” in compiling the report.

He said that a state institution releasing such reports ahead of the presidential elections implicating a specific political group was “highly concerning”.

However despite the claims, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim has disputed the claim that the timing of the audit report before the election was politically motivated, stating that the information contained in such reports was necessary for people to make informed decisions.

“Some fundamental elements have been disregarded as false information in the report. Some have even been labelled as unlawful [spending]. Other expenses have been presented in a very misleading manner. We have highlighted these issues to the Auditor General in a meeting held today,” Aslam said.

Responding to the Auditor General’s claim that the former government had overspent more than MVR 430 million (US$27.9 million), Aslam said the Indian government had provided grant aid of MVR 267 million (US$17.3 million), the South Korean government had given up to MVR 3 million (US$194,552.53) in grant aid, while an additional MVR 2 million (US$129,701.69) was given from a trust fund.

According to the former Minister, when the grant aid was accounted for the deficit stood at MVR 167 million (US$10.83 million), which had been settled by government’s contingency budget.

“The Auditor General is doing the math and arithmetic without taking these key figures into account. You simply can’t count apples and oranges and decide the total sum of both in apples. We see his findings something similar to counting apples in this manner,” Aslam said.

He also claimed that MVR 64 million (US$4.15 million) spent on building roads in both Addu City and Fuvahmulah was directed to improve the capacity of Southern Utilities Company Limited (SUL) because other companies who proposed to construct the road, including the government’s Maldives Transport and Construction Company (MTCC), were too expensive.

“The Auditor General claimed the government incurred financial losses by giving the project to SUL, and that the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) was actively involved in the construction work. And that government had paid SUL for the voluntary work carried out by the military personnel. What we are highlighting here is that if mathematically calculated, the amount spent on the project did not result in financial losses to the government,” Aslam said.

He acknowledged that MNDF officers “had a role” in constructing of the roads, but said that since Nasheed’s ousting in 2012 the work was not being carried out, and therefore there was nothing to pay.

He also questioned as to how the Auditor General came to the conclusion that the MNDF had contributed to 60 percent of the total work carried out to hold the SAARC Summit, stating that there was no justification given for the figure.

MDP MP and Lawyer Ahmed Hamza said he believed a possible reason for the report’s alleged inaccuracy was that the government had withheld certain financial records from the Auditor General, which would otherwise have substantiated the MDP’s account.

Auditor General responds

Responding to the allegations by the MDP, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim told local media that the party’s allegations did not carry any weight and that it was “not the fault of the Auditor General if the government did not share certain documents with the auditors”.

“The allegations levelled against the Auditor General’s office do not carry any weight. Our reports are based on information received from government agencies and authorities. Likewise, the report on SAARC summit was compiled in a similar manner,” Niyaz said.

“The [MDP] is alleging that the current government was witholding information from us. We can’t do anything about that. We base our reports based on the  information we receive.”

Niyaz also said that if the MDP were having doubts over the accuracy of the reports – due to government’s failure to share of information – the matter should be raised with the relevant parliamentary oversight committees.

The reason behind allegations made against the audit reports by politicians were, Niyaz said, due to the lack of knowledge regarding how government finances were handled. He also expressed concern over attempts made by politicians to mislead the public.

The Auditor General also claimed that he had not released the reports with the intention to “bombard” a certain political camp, and contested that the mandate of his office was not to attack politicians.

“We execute our responsibilities and try to complete our work as soon as possible to hold governments accountable,” Niyaz said.

“Our job is to hold the government accountable. To ensure that the government strictly follows the law and due procedure in handling the finances of the state. I believe the parliament has a central role in enforcing the recommendations made in the audit reports. We have released almost 200 audit reports. But parliament has only decided to act on just two,” he noted.


Nasheed dismisses allegations of SAARC Summit embezzlement, acknowledges overspend: “Senior officials wanted things to get done quickly”

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) presidential candidate and former President Mohamed Nasheed has dismissed allegations that his government embezzled state funds to host the 17th SAARC Summit, but acknowledged that it was possible money had been spent contrary to the Public Finance Act.

The Auditor General’s report on government expenses for the 17th SAARC Summit held in Addu City and Fuvahmulah in 2011, revealed several financial discrepancies including an overspend of more than MVR 430 million (US$27.9 million) on the event’s allocated budget.

According to the report compiled through audits of expenditure by the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the President’s Office and the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF), Nasheed’s government spent MVR 667,874,870.84 (US$ 43.3 million), on the summit – 188.82 percent more than the MVR 231,240,000 (US$14.99 million) budget passed by parliament.

Speaking during a campaign rally held at Haa Dhaal Atoll Vaikaradhoo Island yesterday (July 24), the former President welcomed the audit reports on his administration and echoed his party’s position that no corruption was involved in the spending.

“Since the ratification of the 2008 constitution, and since the beginning of word to word enforcement of laws that came after the ratification, it is quite possible that there may be certain things carried out in contrast with the public finance act. This is because senior officials of the government wanted things to get done quickly,” Nasheed said.

Discrepancies highlighted in the report included financial losses incurred by the government, violations of the Public Finance Act and Public Finance Regulation and wasteful spending.

However, the opposition MDP dismissed the findings of the report describing it as “naive” and “misguided political posturing”, while also challenging its credibility and accuracy.

“It is not possible for the MDP-led government to be involved in blatant corruption. Because we came with a plan and strategy for reforms,” said MDP’s Spokesperson Hamid Abdul Ghafoor at the time.

“Looking at perspective of development and progress, we see this report as just ‘petty accusations’. The report lacked due procedure, impartiality and transparency. It may have been possibly influenced by the political vibe in the country.”

Nasheed stressed that he had not dishonored the trust that the people had placed in him, and had not embezzled “a single laari” from the state budget.

The audit report on the SAARC Summit was released during the MDP’s campaigning ahead of the upcoming 2013 election.

Previous reports

A similar wave of audit reports were released shortly before the 2008 presidential elections, revealing the extravagant spending of then President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom – who now heads the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM), claiming for presidency in September.

In April 2009, former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem – the country’s first independent auditor general, who was appointed by Gayoom in January 2008 – released a damning audit report (English) of the presidential palace’s finances, revealing that over US$3 million earmarked for helping the poor was spent on “the president’s relatives, ministers and their families, senior government officials and some MPs.”

More than SGD$2.3 million (US$1,500,000) was spent on one of Gayoom’s relatives and his family on trips to Singapore throughout 2007 and SGD$ 1.4 million (US$930,000) for another relative and his family for multiple trips to Singapore.

In March 2008, SGD$23,756 (US$16,000) was spent for a minister’s grandson to stay in a hotel in Singapore for 21 days; in April, SGD$50,022 (US$33,000) was spent on medical expenses for a friend of the president; and in July 2008, SGD$6,905 (US$4,600) was spent on two pairs of glasses for a minister and his wife.

In October 2012, Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam leaked invoices and bills of the spending through the social media, which revealed extravagant expenses of former President Gayoom’s family out of the former presidential palace Theemuge’s budget allocated for helping the poor.

Among the spending included, money spent on trouser materials, jewellery and expensive family stays at luxurious hotels and resorts abroad.

An invoice dated March 31, 2008 showed SG$ 14,977 spent for trouser material (polyester viscose), which was authorised and signed by former Executive Director of the Presidential Palace Ismail Faiz.

On December 20, 2006, a purple gold diamond pendant for SGD$824 and purple gold diamond bracelet for SGD$1,510 were bought using Nasreena’s credit card. Another invoice showed over SGD$28,000 paid out of the Theemuge account to the Grand Hyatt in Singapore.

Moreover, an average of MVR 5,500 (US$430) a day was spent on food for the former President and his family – equivalent to one month’s wages for an employee working in the palace at the time.

So far no action has been taken against any of the embezzlement allegations.