Research reveals lack of transparency in Maldives climate finance governance

The “Assessment of Climate Finance Governance in Maldives” report published by local NGO Transparency Maldives (TM) has revealed a number of concerns in climate finance governance.

The report indicates the Maldives has been pledged US$ 99,280,073 in grants, US$ 20,380,000 in loans and US$ 48,506,276 from multi-lateral and bilateral donors, for co-financing projects from 2008 through 2015.

Projects focus mainly on mitigation, adaptation and capacity building, and cover a wide range of areas from waste management, conservation, water resource management to education and development of renewable, clean and sustainable energy.

It was conducted as part of the “Climate Finance Integrity Programme” piloted by Transparency International in six countries to monitor the raising, managing and governance climate related finance.

TM noted the need for increased transparency in the decision making process, including the selection of islands for different projects to allowing civil sector groups to monitor and review priorities.

According to the report, project locations are prioritized by implementing agencies such as Ministry of Energy and Environment without the involvement of donor agencies.

As the criteria for island selection is not visible in any records, “there is a strong incentive for political maneuvering in island selection,” the report said. This issue is not specific to climate change projects but seems to be the general trend, it added.

Transparency Maldives has proposed the establishment of a clearly identified and comprehensive climate policy and strategy to “ensure selection of projects is aligned to strategic goals and not to personal or political gain”.

The NGO also took issue with the constant reorganization of decision making bodies, their members, hierarchy and mandates, arguing “in cases of institutional changes it is important to disclose the hierarchy of decision-making processes, mandates and who is responsible for overseeing the work of each committee.”

The report also noted “serious concerns” in the availability of accurate and up-to-date information on projects and their progress. The public is said to have no access to a comprehensive list of climate projects at present.

A government website created in 2009 to increase transparency is still being managed by the President’s Office instead of the central monitoring agency, the Office of Programmes and Projects (OPP), as planned. Further, the website is not regularly updated, the report said.

Discrepancies in available financial information of projects from different sources was also reported. “It remains a challenge for ordinary citizens to gain access to information from the Government of Maldives with many restrictions included in accessing information,” the reported said.

Another issue highlighted was insufficient external monitoring of climate change projects, mainly because of the shortage of information reported to the OPP.

Due to this, the reporting of monitoring and evaluation of climate projects is done solely by the implementing agencies such as the ministry.

Donors must encourage project reporting to a national monitoring agency to increase transparency and public access to such information, the TM said.

Weakness in oversight was also mentioned in the report, referring mainly to the Auditor General’s Office (AGO) and Anti-corruption Commission (ACC).

Donors have limited access to some AGO documents due to language barriers, while implementation of recommendations in audit reports are not followed up until the next audit, the report said.

No complaints concerning climate finance have been lodged to or investigated by ACC, however, the ACC has provided recommendations on instances where inefficiencies could risk corruption. But the report found the  ACC also does not monitor the implementation of their recommendations.

The assessment highlighted that it was “not clearly evident” whether the parliament reviewed or analyzed reports submitted by independent institution or the OPP, as no such reviews have been published.

TM has proposed a number of recommendations for specific parties involved in climate finance governance, and plans to conduct a more in-depth governance assessment of the Ministry of Environment and Energy – the institution which receives the largest portion of climate finance projects.

The report can be downloaded from here.


Ministry of Environment and Energy reveals hundred-day roadmap and energy data publication

Ministry of Environment and Energy has launched a road map for the first hundred days of President Abdulla Yameen’s administration, joining several other government institutions that revealed similar plans.

Environment and energy minister Thoriq Ibrahim said the implementation of some projects related to waste management, land erosion, water, sanitation and energy and preparatory works for more projects will commence within the first 100-days.

He said an effort will be made to strengthen the legal framework and it’s enforcement. To achieve this goal, implementation of waste regulation and emissions standard regulation will begin while the Environment Police is also expected to start working within this period.

According to the ministry, the Environment Police Unit formed through a memorandum of understanding with Maldives Police Service will investigate violation of environment and biodiversity laws.

The “Maldives Energy Outlook for Inhabited Islands 2013”, a compilation of electricity data of Maldives’ inhabited islands was also revealed at the ceremony held to announce the road-map. While this is the first publication of energy statistics, the ministry plans to publish this data annually in the future.

In a foreword to the document the minister highlighted the importance of having a consolidated national energy database and regular publication of such information at island and national level.

The publication states that 481,577metric ton of fuel was imported to meet energy demands of the country in 2012; out of which 10,019metric ton was cooking gas, 337,531metric ton was diesel, 38,008metric ton was petrol and 96,019metric ton was aviation gas. And 39 percent of the diesel imported was used to generate electricity in inhabited islands, making it the biggest consumer of imported fuel. It states that 49.4 percent (247.17 Gwh/year) of electricity generated in the country are consumed in the congested capital Male’ City.

Maldives Energy Outlook for Inhabited Islands 2013 is available for download here.


STELCO installs new generator

The State Electric Company (STELCO) today begun using the first of two new generators designed to alleviate a shortfall in the country’s energy needs after a successful test was completed on the unit, according to local media.

A STELCO official told Haveeru that the first 8.9 Megawatt generator had now been connected to the country’s power generation system, with testing on a second identical unit expected to begin soon.

The company back in April announced it was having to enforce scheduled power cuts to offset a shortage estimated at the time of 2.5 megawatts of energy.

The two new generators were initially set to be implemented as part of the fourth power project back in December last year. This date was later pushed back to May 2012.

Once installed, the two new unit will complement the company’s existing 17 generators operated by STELCO.

STELCO is a state company that provides electricity to 50 percent of the population.


Maldives a good ear for SAARC think-tank pointers

“A lot of countries in South Asia don’t see solar energy as a main power source – yet. Let’s put it this way: Maldives does.”

Tomislav Delinic, Director for Regional Program SAARC at German political organisation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, believes the Maldives has a significant role to play in improving environment and energy policies across South Asia.

“Every country needs to find its own most suitable solutions, but it should also share these solutions with others,” he said. “Since the Maldives is pushing forward the renewable energy sector, it can be an asset for the region.”

Renewable energy has been a leading issue for researchers at the Consortium of South Asian Think-Tanks (COSATT) this year. COSATT is an informal non-profit organisation convened by the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) to bridge policy research in South Asia.

Since 2008 COSATT has developed annual SAARC summit themes into year-long research projects for and by South Asian think-tanks. Previous topics include trade, connectivity, and counter-terrorism.

Delinic was one of several participants in COSATT’s third and final meeting held at Bandos Resort between Tuesday, October 11 and Thursday, October 13.

“We know South Asia lacks connectivity and we try to bridge it by bringing together leading think-tanks which are politically engaged to discuss the most important issues of connectivity,” said Delinic.

Last year’s topic, ‘Green Asia’, lead COSATT to organize a 12-month international research project on environmental security and renewable energy. Research institutes from all SAARC countries have contributed to a summary publication, released yesterday, as well as an eight to ten page letter of recommendations, to be submitted to policy makers prior to the SAARC summit in Addu this November.

The Maldives is figuring into COSATT’s 2011 recommendations in important ways.

The President’s Office last week hosted the release of COSATT’s 2011 report “Energy and Environmental Security: A Cooperative Approach in South Asia”; Vice President Dr. Mohammed Waheed delivered the keynote address.

Delinic said significant potential for action was in store for the Maldives over the next two SAARC summits. Partnership, however, is thin.

“We released the book here not only because SAARC summit will be held here but also because environment is so important for the Maldives. But we lack partners in the Maldives and are looking for researchers to contribute to our work. This is now even more crucial because we will soon pick up next year’s SAARC summit topic, ‘Building Bridges’. Since this has been initiated by the Maldives, their participation at COSATT would be very good.”

Delinic said several Maldivian policy makers and think tank members had met with the COSATT team during last week’s meeting to discuss opportunities, although no agreements have been reached.

While COSATT does not implement policies according to its findings, proposing suggestions is a key step.

“Cooperation has to start somewhere,” Delinic said. “If you’re lacking common ideas, you can’t develop concepts. So we don’t want to allow that our politicians are saying ‘We don’t have the concepts.’ We will give them the concepts. Leading think tanks from the region agree on that.”

Delinic said think tanks are the key to getting recommendations from groups such as COSATT off of paper and into action.

“Countries might have issues with each other, but if you see the think-tanks in many of these places, they’re doing very well. They’re cooperating, they’re agreeing, sometimes they even oppose their own government. This is the future, and we need to work on it further,” he said.

COSATT takes its biggest test at the government level.

According to IPCS research officer and COSATT report editor, J. Jeganaathan, bureaucratic processes tend to block efficiency. “I see the bureaucratic process in each South Asia member countries as an issue. They are rooted in traditional thinking, they cannot move beyond traditional values, and that is an obstacle to progress. Political will is also an issue, it leads to lack of commitment for common funds and cooperation in implementing new policies.”

Jeganaathan added that although international organisations such as the World Bank (WB) and United Nations Development Program (UNDP) have funds to support SAARC regional resolutions, poor cooperation among country officials prevents these funds from being applied.

However, India’s retired Major General Dipankar Banerjee, a mentor at COSATT, was optimistic about the Maldivian government’s support.

“Energy is a vital and immediate concern for the Maldives and for all of coastal South Asia. The Maldivian government ministers are particularly keen that our recommendations be put on the agenda at the summit,” he said.
Banerjee cautioned that implementation is a slow process. Agreeing with Jeganaathan, he said getting recommendations past the suggestion phase was difficult.

“One can’t expect the recommendations of a think-tank to immediately translate into official government policy. But our goal is to sensitize our respective governments, to show them the options as to how we can move forward, and show them a direction. And that’s a slow learning process, nothing happens instantaneously,” said Banerjee.

Delinic was keen to identify the COSATT recommendations as “an incentive of South Asia for South Asia,” and said maintaining close relationships with governments was important. He did note that follow-up has been a constant issue, and said the group’s final meeting today aimed to resolve it.

“Naturally we cannot push the governments further than offering ideas. But still, one can remind them of this. Keeping contact with the policy makers, dropping information through the media, and connecting with local NGOs on certain topics. For example, in the Maldives we feel sure we can find partners in civil society for certain issues,” he said.

Policy recommendations will be released on 9 November, however they will be distributed to the appropriate government ministries and departments prior to the summit.


Renewables will reduce dependency on imported oil, Vice President tells Yale

Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan has claimed high oil prices will dampen the economic growth of the Maldives and the global economy unless the world shifted to renewable energy.

Speaking at Yale University in the US, the first address by a Maldivian leader at the prestigious university, Dr Waheed said the most important outcome of the Maldives plans for carbon neutrality would be freedom from a dependency on imported oil.

The unpredictable price oil and the prospect of higher oil prices over the long term meant the shift to renewable energy was essential, he told the audience, reiterating that carbon neutrality was not only necessary for ecological reasons, but it was also influenced by economic considerations.