PPM seeks to limit elected councils to populous islands

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Abdulla Khaleel has proposed changes to the decentralisation law to not elect local councils in islands with a population lower than 500 people.

Presenting the amendment bill at today’s sitting of parliament, Khaleel said the Local Government Authority (LGA) in consultation with the atoll council will make administrative arrangements to provide municipal services in islands without elected councillors.

The administrative arrangements can be made in accordance with the wishes of the community, Khaleel said.

“So I don’t believe it will cause too many problems for populations lower than 500,” he said.

During the ensuing debate, opposition MPs argued that the proposed change amounted to discrimination against small island communities.

If the amendments are passed, Jumhooree Party MP Moosa Nizar Ibrahim said small communities would become marginalised, neglected and deprived of basic services.

Several pro-government MPs meanwhile said that the old system of island and atoll chiefs directly appointed by the president during the 30-year reign of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was much better suited to the Maldives.

PPM MP Saudhulla Hilmy said the local government system introduced in 2011 has been a “bitter” experience and suggested removing the decentralisation provision from the constitution.


Khaleel also proposed extensive changes to the composition of local councils. The amendments state that a four-member council will be elected in islands with a population between 500 and 5,000 people and a six-member council for islands with a population between 5,000 and 10,000.

Apart from the president and vice president of island, atoll, and city councils, Khaleel proposed making other councillors part-time members who would not be involved in day-to-day activities.

The part-time councillors will only attend meetings to finalise decisions.

Atoll councils will meanwhile be comprised of two elected members and a councillor from each island in the atoll. If the revisions are passed, Khaleel said the government would save MVR100 million a year.

Khaleel’s amendments represent a major overhaul of the law and comes after the pro-government majority in parliament passed a third and fourth amendment to the Decentralisation Act last month.

President Abdulla Yameen ratified the fourth amendment today.

The amendments passed by parliament on June 29 state that by-elections will not be held if an island, atoll, or city councillor resigns one year after the local council elections.

Local councils are elected for a three-year term. The resignation of councillors have triggered several by-elections since the local government system was introduced in February 2011.

However, by-elections must still be held for vacant seats if a council does not have a quorum to hold meetings or if a councillor resigns within the first year.

In late June, President Yameen also ratified a third amendment to the decentralisation law that authorised the president to determine the public services to be provided by the opposition-majority Malé and Addu city councils.

The amendments state that municipal services the president decides not to assign to the council will be transferred to government ministries.

During the parliamentary debate last month, MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) heavily criticised the proposed changes, contending that it would “destroy” the decentralisation system and reduce the city council to an “administrative desk at the president’s office.”


The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the MDP government, which had proposed limiting the number of councillors to “no more than 220.”

The new layer of government introduced with the first local council elections in February 2011 cost the state US$12 million a year with a wage bill of US$220,000 a month.

Under the 2010 decentralisation law, a five-member council is elected in islands with a population of less than 3,000, a seven-member council for islands with a population between 3,000 and 10,000, and a nine-member council for islands with a population of more than 10,000.

City councils comprise of “an elected member from every electoral constituency of the city”, and atoll councils comprises of “elected members from the electoral constituencies within the administrative division.”

The presidents of island councils currently receive a monthly salary and allowance of MVR15,000 (US$973) while council members receive MVR11,000 (US$713). The mayor of Malé is paid MVR45,000 (US$2,918) a month.

Other changes proposed by Khaleel meanwhile include providing a seat on island councils for the chair of the island’s women’s development committee and forming advisory committees on economic, social, and environmental affairs.

The LGA – the oversight body tasked with coordinating with local councils – will be comprised of five members, including a cabinet minister, the chief executive for local government, and three members selected by parliament with experience in gender issues, business, and governance or public administration.


Committee approves authorising president to determine city council’s powers

The parliament’s national security committee has approved amendments proposed to the Decentralisation Act to authorise the president to determine the public services to be provided by the opposition-majority Malé and Addu city councils.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim’s bill states that president can assign municipal services to the Malé city council or transfer them to government ministries.

The amendment bill was sent to committee last week with 33 votes in favour and 15 against. The committee completed its review process today.

As suggested by pro-government MPs during last week’s debate on the legislation, the oversight committee also added a clause to authorise the president to determine the powers and responsibilities of the opposition-majority Addu City council as well.

The bill was passed with the support of two opposition Jumhooree Party MPs on the committee. Two main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MPs voted against it.

Reflecting its majority in the 85-member house, the PPM and coalition partner MDA have voting majorities in all parliamentary committees.

During last week’s debate, MDP MPs argued that the proposed changes would “destroy” the decentralisation system and reduce the city council to an “administrative desk at the president’s office.”

The MDP had won a majority of seats in the Malé and Addu City councils in both the February 2011 and January 2015 local council elections.


PPM MP proposes removing Malé city council’s powers

The parliament today accepted for consideration a bill that would authorise President Abdulla Yameen to determine the public services to be provided by the opposition-majority Malé city council.

Ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Mohamed Waheed Ibrahim’s revisions to the decentralisation law states that municipal services the president decides not to assign to the council will be transferred to government ministries.

If the amendment bill is passed, the president must determine the powers and responsibilities of the council within a month in consultation with his cabinet.

During today’s sitting of parliament, MPs of the main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) heavily criticised the proposed changes, contending that it would “destroy” the decentralisation system and reduce the city council to an “administrative desk at the president’s office.”

The current administration is using its parliamentary majority to consolidate all powers of the state with the executive and paving the way for “autocratic rule,” the opposition MPs said.

But Waheed said the changes were necessary due to the council’s alleged corruption and behaviour as “a separate government”.

Other PPM MPs accused the council of obstructing the government’s efforts to develop the capital and focusing primarily on the MDP’s activities.

Pro-government MPs said the council had failed to solve the city’s garbage and flooding problems, but opposition MPs said the government had not granted the funds necessary to fulfil the council’s responsibilities.

Waheed’s bill follows the housing ministry evicting the council from the city hall building last month. In a long-running struggle, the housing ministry had also taken over management of Malé City’s public spaces, parks, harbours, cemeteries, and roads from the city council.

The MDP had won a majority of seats in the Malé and Addu City councils in both the February 2011 and January 2015 local council elections.

MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, parliamentary group leader of the MDP, said the amendments are contrary to the spirt of the 2008 constitution.

The changes would undermine the concept of separation of powers and decentralised administration envisioned in the constitution, he said.

Following preliminary debate, the amendment bill was accepted for consideration with 33 votes in favour, 15 against, and sent to the national committee for further review.

The People’s Majlis convened today for its second session of the year after a one-month recess.


LGA board vote to remove Chairperson Nazim

The Local Government Authority has voted to remove Chairperson Colonel (retired) Mohamed Nazim and Vice President Moosa Naseer.

Five of the nine board members supported a no-confidence motion against Nazim, who is also minister of defence and acting health minister.

The five board members took the vote after having refused to leave today’s board meeting following Nazim’s failure to table a no-confidence motion against himself.

“We can conduct the meeting without the board president being there,” explained member Shujau Hassan. “It is allowed for in our rules of procedure.”

Malé City Councillor and LGA board member Shamau Shareef explained that Nazim had insisted the agenda for yesterday’s cancelled meeting be attended to before any other issues were addressed.

Shamau noted that Nazim had prevented the board taking a no-confidence vote against him in December. He had previously explained to Minivan News that a binding resolution to do so had been signed by four members on December 24.

He stated today that five board members, including himself and Hussain Naseer, Hussain Hilmy, Ibrahim Rasheed, and Shujau Hassan refused to adjourn the meeting, requesting LGA officials write to the attorney general for advice.

Shamau expressed concern that Nazim was not working to protect local government in the country while “the government is dismantling the whole system of decentralisation”.

Both Nazim – appointed to the board by President Abdulla Yameen, and Moosa Naseer will continue to hold positions on the LGA board. Nazim referred any media queries to LGA’s media coordinator Mohamed Azmeen.

Azmeen said that today’s meeting had been halted after disagreements between the chair and members over the agenda. He had confirmed that the board was to decide on how to proceed with the issue after the attorney general’s advice, but was not responding to calls following the board’s subsequent dismissal of Nazim this afternoon.

Formed under the 2010 Decentralisation Act, the LGA is tasked with overseeing and coordinating the work of the Maldives’ 199 city, atoll, and island-level councils.

The LGA board is required under the act with ensuring that “the work and activities of the councils created under this Act is functioning in accordance with the Constitution, this Act, and other Laws”.

The original Decentralisation Act assigns a number of services and lands to the councils, though failure to make amendments to relevant legislation – particularly the Land Act and the Finance Act – has led to contradiction in the current laws.

Concerns over the government’s plans for decentralisation prompted councils from the country’s southernmost atolls to sign a pact to defend the system last month.

The Medheaari Declaration – signed by the Gaaf Dhaalu, Gaaf Alifu, and Fuvahmulah atoll councils, and Addu City Council – called upon the government to protect decentralisation, as well as making plans to secure the fiscal autonomy of the signatories.

This article was updated shortly after its original publication to include the board’s decision to pass the no-confidence motion against Chairperson Nazim.

Related to this story

Defence minister Nazim faces no-confidence motion from LGA board

Southern atolls sign pact to defend decentralisation

Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?


Committee passes budget, recommends constitutional amendment to reduce independent commissions

The People’s Majlis budget committee has passed the record MVR24.3 billion (US$1.5 billion) state budget for 2015 and recommended a constitutional amendment to reduce the number of independent institutions.

The proposal by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed said that bringing the state’s independent institutions under one body would reduce government expenditure.

The committee did not make any changes to the budget.

The 11 recommendations also included a proposal by Rasheed to amend the Decentralisation Act to reduce the number of local councils and cut salaries of all councilors except the council’s president. All councillors except the council president would be paid an allowance based on their attendance at council meetings.

MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and the PPM’s ally Jumhooree Party (JP) did not vote for the two recommendations.

During former President Mohamed Nasheed’s tenure, the PPM leadership – formerly of the Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) – rejected the MDP’s proposal for councilors to be established in only seven provinces.

DRP MPs at the time insisted on establishing a council in all inhabited islands and an atoll council for each of the 20 atolls.

As per DRP amendments, islands with a population less than 3000 now have five paid councilors, islands with a population between 3000 and 10,000 have seven paid councilors, and islands with a population over 10,000 have nine councilors.

Meanwhile, atolls which consist of two parliamentary constituencies elect three members from each constituency while atolls which have more than three Majlis constituencies elect two members from each constituency. Each Majlis constituency consists of 5000 people.

MDP MPs had walked out in protest from the Majlis sitting, claiming the DRP amendments would create “20 mini governments” and create an enormous financial burden on the state.

The budget committee today also passed a proposal by Rasheed requiring the government to formulate a master plan for population consolidation.

A proposal by the MDP to conduct all government trainings through the Maldives National University was also passed.

The committee also voted in favor of MDP MP Mohamed Aslam’s proposal requiring the government to commence work on establishing a development bank, get back money owed to the government, and to decrease the number of expatriate workers in the tourism sector by increasing the stake of Maldivians.

The Maldives Development Alliance (MDA)’s recommendation to establish a low interest loan scheme for housing and boat building, and the Jumhooree Party (JP) recommendation requiring the government to prioritise projects on constitutionally mandated services also passed.

The MDP had proposed establishing a pay commission to set state wage policy by the end of 2015 and providing a grace period of two to three years for new taxes, but the PPM dominated committee rejected these proposals.

The committee also rejected MDP proposals requiring deference to the Fiscal Responsibility Act and Public Finance Act in budget implementation.

The budget will now be forwarded to the Majlis floor for final review.

Related to this story

Finance minister presents record MVR24.3 billion state budget to parliament

MDP criticises proposed 2015 state budget as “aimless”

Government proposes changes to local government model

Decentralisation bill passed as MDP MPs walk out

Vice President calls for “population consolidation”


Can decentralisation take root in the Maldives?

The uprooted trees and flooded streets of Malé in recent days seem to have laid bare the continuing tensions between local and central government in the Maldives.

After the central authorities last week removed the city council’s jurisdiction over the roads of the capital, senior figures from both the government and opposition have made the legal case for and against the decision.

Friction between the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) dominated Malé City Council and successive governments has left the local authority with just 5 of the 22 public areas granted to it after its establishment in 2010.

Attempts to replace the trees – allegedly cut down by off-duty police officers – were thwarted by the state-owned Malé Road Development Corporation last Wednesday, who police allowed to continue despite councillors’ calls to uphold the Decentralisation Act.

While the former Speaker Abdulla Shahid has suggested the cabinet has violated the law in taking over maintenance of the capital’s roads, Attorney General Mohamed Anil suggested that the move was compliant with both the Decentralisation Act and the Land Act.

The President’s Office have said the council had failed to deal with the recent floods, although the council continues to point out that it has received less than half the funds allocated to it from the 2014 budget.

“We don’t even have an account in which to put money,” explained Deputy Mayor Shifa Mohamed.

After his ministry gave orders to tear down the areca palms planted along Malé’s main thoroughfare last week, the housing minister added to the confusion today by suggesting the council would be irresponsible to challenge efforts to make the capital greener.

Others suggest that the real roots of the issue lie with a government unwilling to cede power to local authorities, resulting in what some have described as decentralisation in name only.


“They don’t believe in the concept,” suggested Shifa. “Instead of facilitating decentralisation, they are trying to show that it can’t function.”

Defending the government’s action, President’s Office Spokesman Ibrahim Muaz has said that the decision regarding street maintenance was consistent with its policy of utilising state land for social purposes.

Authority over the city’s mosques will soon revert to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, leaving the council with control over only Malé’s burial grounds – completing the steady removal of land since the fall of the MDP government in 2012.

While the current administration has previously called on local authorities to cooperate in order to bring development to the people of the country, the provisions of the flagship Special Economic Zones Act appears to make such acquiescence redundant.

The yet-to-be-specified SEZs – designed to attract foreign investors with deregulated territory – will render local authorities powerless

“There will be consultations with the local councils, but the decision making power will be here because we want to take decisions very fast and we want development as soon as possible,” tourism minister and Chairman of the SEZ investment board Ahmed Adeeb has previously explained.

In the same interview, Adeeb made clear that his government does not feel decentralised authorities are currently suited to aid the country’s development.

“Land, labour, and capital – the central government and the regional governments are fighting for it as we don’t have enough resources even for the existing government to cover the budget deficits,” he explained.

“I believe when there’s enough economic activity we can give more powers to the councils.”

The ‘begging system’

The MDP’s claims that its political opponents are attempting to sabotage the decentralisation project in favour of maintaining a Malé-centric ‘begging system’ began before the ink had dried on the 2010 Decentralisation Act.

Following its failure to win a majority in the 2008 parliamentary elections, the MDP government had to accept a version of its decentralisation bill without the structural and fiscal provisions it had originally planned for.

The rejection of over 300 proposed amendments by the opposition-controlled house – including attempts to restore the provincial model on which the scheme was based – prompted MDP MPs to walk out of the Majlis prior to the bill’s passage in April 2010.

Subsequent amendments increasing the number of councillors were described by the party as “economic sabotage”, leaving the country with a system the UNDP has described as a “major barrier to fiscal consolidation”.

Since assuming power, the same political groups have moved to reduce the recurrent costs of a system that had grown to an estimated US$64 million per three year term.

Meanwhile, the 2014 UNDP Human Development Report pointed out that harmonising laws – a problem typified by the legal wrangling in/over the streets of Malé – remains a key challenge facing the decentralisation transition.

[T]he Decentralization Act identified land management as a core responsibility of the councils. However, this contradicts the Land Act, which provides that the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure manage land distribution. Similarly, the Decentralization Act and the Constitution make provision for fiscal decentralization, revenue generation and management of own revenues by councils. This contradicts the Finance Act, which mandates all revenues collected from any Government body be deposited in the Government’s central public account.

Maldives Human Development Report 2014


Among the objectives envisioned in the Decentralisation Act are the empowerment of people and the creation of an environment conducive for peace and prosperity.

However, a report into the process by UNICEF in 2013 suggested that the political wranglings at the center of Maldivian government have left the islands worse off than before decentralisation was introduced.

“Local Councils are now less empowered than they were in 2008 which was when they officially had even less functions and revenue raising powers,” concluded the UNICEF report.

“More importantly the above arrangements mean that Council finances are micro-managed from the centre. So Councils have almost no autonomy to prioritise and manage their resources. There is, thus, basically no fiscal decentralisation.”

Decentralisation advocate Salma Fikry argues that the central government has little interest in genuine devolution of powers, preferring ‘deconcentration’ which allows for dispersed administrative powers without real financial autonomy.

“I do agree that Island Development Committees were doing better work, but the underlying truth was that the government could choose who to support and who not to support,” said Salma.

She suggested that the desire for decentralised government stemmed from the realisation in the atolls of disparities in regional service provision – another issue highlighted recently by the UNDP.

The central government will not allow for revenue raising measures at the local level as this would reduce political leverage, she explained.

The UNICEF report further noted that political partisanship and overstaffed local authorities had resulted in “political bickering” between council members, “stalemates”, and “no decision making”.

Malé Deputy Mayor Shifa also suggested that the problems with the current government stemmed from political rather than practical reasoning.

“Just because it is done by the MDP, they will destroy it.”

UNICEF concluded that the decentralisation process in the Maldives had been “rushed”, noting that such far-reaching changes can take decades to implement successfully.

During the time it took to compile the 2013 report  a new level of provincial government was introduced and subsequently abolished within two years, with UNICEF noting the subsequent “confusion at all levels of government”.

Observing recent events in the capital, it appears that the Maldives decentralisation experiment will continue to struggle to take root and may well be washed away in the next political downpour.


Bill proposed to transfer land from local councils to central government

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Riyaz Rasheed has proposed transferring land and lagoons under local council jurisdiction or ownership to the housing ministry.

“I am proposing amendments to the Decentralisation Act to the [People’s] Majlis today because of the disputes concerning land between councils, city councils and the housing ministry, and because the existing land law and decentralisation law does not make clear enough to us who has ownership of land,” said Riyaz while presenting the legislation (Dhivehi) at yesterday’s sitting of parliament.

“Therefore, I certainly believe that the state’s property should be under one institution.”

In the ensuing debate, MPs of the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) and Jumhooree Party (JP) accused the government of attempting to “destroy” decentralisation and render councils powerless.

The amendments would defeat the purpose of devolving decision-making powers, they contended, noting that articles 234 and 235 of the Constitution state that local councils shall have the authority to “raise funds” and “own property and incur liabilities”.

Riyaz  meanwhile argued that state assets should be under the control of the executive, alleging that councils with opposition majorities were deliberately obstructing development projects by refusing to provide land.

The deputy leader of the PPM’s parliamentary group claimed that some island councils have yet to arrange land for the fisheries ministry and youth ministry to build ice plants and sports arenas, respectively.

The current administration was “facing serious difficulties” in implementing its policies, he contended.

Following disputes between the housing ministry and councils, Riyaz noted that councils have recently been informed not to conduct transactions involving state-owned land or lease property without obtaining permission from the president.

In June, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure removed two parks from the jurisdiction of the MDP-majority Malé City Council, while Dharubaaruge convention centre was reclaimed by the government in May.

Riyaz also criticised the city council for leasing parks in the capital for restaurant businesses. While councils should have authority over land, Riyaz said the law should not allow that power to be misused.

“It should be done in accordance with the government’s policies,” he insisted.


During the debate, MDP MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa said the amendments would make councils “toothless” and the decentralisation law “useless.”

Ghafoor denied Riyaz’s allegations of non-cooperation from MDP-majority councils, adding that the claims were intended to “mislead” the public.

JP MPs also noted that property and lagoons under council ownership were the only significant means available for generating an income.

MDP MP Rozaina Adam said the government was trying to “cut off the arms and legs” of councils as they would not be able to do “any work when the government steals land from small islands.”

Several MPs suggested that there were many island councils doing exemplary work for the benefit and development of their islands or atolls. All local councils should not be punished or blamed for the actions of a few, the MPs said.

JP MP Hussain Shahid suggested amending the law to allow councils to function more efficiently, arguing that the number of councillors in each island were excessive.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the MDP government, which had proposed limiting the number of councillors to “no more than 220.”

Following the release of the UNDP’s second Human Development Index report in June – which found the rest of the country lagging behind the Malé area with its ‘highly developed’ score – Salma Fikry, a prominent campaigner and proponent of decentralisation, told Minivan News that lack of political will was to blame for the disparity.

“The whole point of decentralisation is scary for the Maldivian government because they like to keep people dependent, they like to think of themselves as doing people favours,” she said.

She predicted that “three quarters of the population would probably move to the capital and the rest of the country will be taken over by the corporations.”


Majlis members send six bills to committee

Six pieces of legislation submitted on behalf of the government by Progressive Party of Maldives MPs were sent to committee for further review at today’s sitting of parliament.

The bills include amendments to the Goods and Service Tax Act, amendments to the Immigration Act, a bill to repeal an outdated law on allowing detention for more than seven days, amendments to the Civil Service Act, amendments to the Human Rights Commission of Maldives Act, and amendments to a number of laws to remove inconsistencies with the Decentralisation Act.

While most of the bills were accepted and sent to committee with comfortable majorities of between 50 to 64 votes, the proposed amendment to the Immigration Act was accepted with 46 votes in favour and 19 against


Government proposes abolishing Women’s Development Committees

The government’s proposal for amendments to the Decentralisation Act include abolishing Women’s Development Committees in the islands.

The amendment requires the councils to abolish the committees and to form four new advisory committees – a Women’s Development Advisory Committee, an Economic Committee, a Development Advisory Committee, and an Environment Protection Advisory Committee – that would advise island councils.

According to the amendment, the funds and assets of the existing Women’s Development Committees will be transferred to the council, and will only be permitted for use after consulting with the Women’s Development Advisory Committee.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) parliamentary group leader and MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik said that the parliamentary group had not yet reviewed the amendments.

Introduced by former President Nasheed in 2010, the Decentralisation Act created Women’s Development Committees for the purpose of generating income for the development of local women, working to increase religious awareness, and to improve the health, education, and political participation of women.

Following its observation of this month’s Majlis elections, the EU Election Observation Mission noted an “extremely low numbers of female candidates,” with a total of 23 women standing – just 5 of whom were elected.

The report noted that this, along with the low voter turn out for women, was in part down to “prevailing and increasing social and cultural norms which disempower women, confining them to the domestic sphere.”

Similarly, the World Economic Forum’s 2013 gender gap index noted that the Maldives had fallen behind in both economic and political gender equality – ranking 97 out of 136 countries ranked.

In the same amendment bill – given its first reading last week – MP Abdul Azeez Jamal Abubakur, who submitted the bill on behalf of the government in December also proposed cutting the monthly salaries for all council members except for the president vice president of the council in the islands – instead, paying an allowance for each meeting attended.

The current act ensures that five council members must be elected for every island with less than 3000 people, while islands with more than 3000 people are entitled to seven councillors.

The presidents of island councils currently receive a monthly salary and allowance of MVR15,000 (US$973) while council members receive MVR11,000 (US$713). The mayor of Malé is paid MVR45,000 (US$2,918) a month.

Under article 25 of the Decentralisation Act, a five-member council is elected in islands with a population of less than 3,000, a seven-member council for islands with a population between 3,000 and 10,000, and a nine-member council for islands with a population of more than 10,000.

Since assuming power last November, President Abdulla Yameen’s government has made clear its intention to reduce the size of local government in order to reduce the state’s recurrent expenditure – which accounts for over 70 percent of the budget.

In December, the World Bank warned in a report that the Maldivian economy was at risk due to excessive government spending.

The current model of more than 1,000 elected councillors approved in 2010 by the then-opposition majority parliament was branded “economic sabotage” by the MDP government, which had proposed limiting the number of councillors to “no more than 220.”

The new layer of government introduced with the first local council elections in February 2011 cost the state US$12 million a year with a wage bill of US$220,000 a month.