Majlis Committee asks CSC Chair to resign within 14 days for alleged sexual harassment

The Independent Institutions Oversight Committee of the People’s Majlis has asked Civil Service Commission (CSC) President Mohamed Fahmy Hassan to resign within 14 days for alleged sexual harassment, local media has reported.

The police and the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee launched an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Fahmy in June after a female senior research officer lodged complaints with the two institutions.

MPs, who wished to remain anonymous, told Haveeru and Sun Online that a majority of the eleven member Independent Institutions Oversight Committee found Fahmy guilty of sexual harassment after summoning and interviewing Fahmy, the victim and several female employees of the CSC.

A vote on a motion urging action against Fahmy was split when five members voted for and against the motion, local media has reported. Chair of the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee Mohamed Nasheed cast the deciding vote, passing the motion to order Fahmy’s resignation within 14 days.

A source, who had knowledge of the committee sitting, confirmed the local media reports to Minivan News, but declined to comment further.

Fahmy and several members of the Independent Institutions Oversight Committee were not responding to calls at the time of press.

Haveeru previously reported that the alleged harassment occurred on May 29. Both Fahmy and the victim were summoned to the committee after a complaint was lodged in the first week of June,the report claimed.

Fahmy was alleged to have called the female staff member over to him, taken her hand and asked her to stand in front of him so that others in the office could not see, and caressed her stomach saying “It won’t do for a beautiful single woman like you to get fat.”

The alleged victim’s family reportedly called Fahmy about the incident, after which it is claimed he sent a text message apologising for the incident.  Reports at the time alleged the read, “I work very closely with everyone. But I have learned my lesson this time.”

In response to the allegations, Fahmy told Minivan News last month that he believed the female staff member made up the complaint upon finding out she had not won a Singapore government offered scholarship to the CSC.

He alleged the claim was politically motivated, arguing the woman would have otherwise filed the case with the police instead of parliament.


Petition against Education Ministry permanent secretary unprofessional, says CSC

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has questioned the professionalism of civil servants who circulated a petition against the Education Ministry’s permanent secretary Dr Aamal Ali, around the media.

The petition, signed by 44 civil servants, includes a ream of complaints against Aamal including allegations that she was misusing her power and taking actions against the Constitution.

The CSC said that the Civil Servant’s Act required civil servants to work according to the Act, follow the code of conduct and work without prejudice: “It is necessary to follow professional manners in a working environment,” said the Commission.

It called on civil servants to report cases regarding permanent secretaries or other civil servants in a professional manner, as required by law.

“Civil servants have the right to file complaints against the permanent secretary if they were unsatisfied by any decision they make, according to the Civil Servant’s Act,” said CSC. ”If any such case was presented to the commission, the commission will always proceed the case and look in to the matter and take necessary measurements.”

Minivan News attempted to contact Dr Amaal Ali, however she was in a meeting and unavailable for a comment at time of press.


JSC member calls for open public inquiry into judicial reappointments

Police cordoned the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) on Monday morning, preventing its staff from working or entering the building, while the President’s Office summoned members of the judicial oversight body for questioning at an 11am meeting.

A statement from the Maldives Police Service (MPS) said the office was closed by police at the request of President Mohamed Nasheed, to prevent “unlawful and unconstitutional work from taking place.”

Police cited Article 115[a] of the Constitution, which concerns the powers of the President and reads that he “must faithfully implement the provisions of this Constitution and the law, and to promote compliance by organs of the State and by the people.”

Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam said the President requested police investigate the institution after hearing reports that the JSC had been “open all night acting illegally.”

Speaking to Minivan News, Attorney General Husnu Suood said commission members, including  JSC head and Supreme Court Justice Mujthaz Fahmy, met President Mohamed Nasheed and explained that the commission was attempting to finalise work on the reappointment of 160 sitting judges before the Constitutional deadline of August 7.

A complaint that papers had been illegally removed from the premises had proven unfounded, Suood added, noting that following the meeting the President had asked police to remove the cordon.

“I think the present criteria for judges, as determined on July 27, is acceptable, subject to the 37 judges who have been identified as having criminal records,” Suood said.

The President’s member on the JSC, Aishath Velezinee, has submitted a complaint to Parliament’s Independent Commissions Committee (ICC) alleging that the “substandards” being used to grant life tenure to judges appointed under the former administration would “rob the country of an honest judiciary, as guaranteed under Article 285 of the Constitution.”

“Most [of the current judges] haven’t completed primary school,” she told Minivan News in a recent interview.

Suood said that “If there is evidence of corruption and political fixing of the judicial appointments, then I support the President’s actions [today].”

The Attorney General added that he was not convinced of the integrity of the current Supreme Court: “I do not trust it. I see certain incidents occurring that I am having to think about,” he said.

Velezinee has appealed to the Independent Commissions Committee (ICC) to issue an injunction preventing the reappointment of judges pending an investigation of the JSC.

Minivan News understands that a meeting between the JSC and the ICC today focused on the procedural functioning of the commission, and not the complaints made against it.

Prior to this meeting on Monday, staff at the commission confided that they were ordered into the commission on Sunday night and had been kept up working until 2:00am printing letters of reappointment for the judges, Velezinee explained.

A staff member from the Supreme Court was also observed to be directing proceedings, Velezinee alleged, claiming that this was a clear violation of the JSC’s independence.

“The first to be processed was Chief Judge of the Criminal Court, Abdulla Mohamed. He was convicted in 2000 for violating the Religious Unity Act and disobeying orders,” she claimed.

The JSC has argued that convictions for crimes under the former Constitution should not be a barrier for reappointment, and should instead be determined on a case-by-case basis.

“At the same time they are trying to restore the same culture that [issued those convictions],” Velezinee stated.

“Presenting the letters of reappointment is the final step [of the reappointments]. The judges have to first perform an oath-taking ceremony arranged by the Supreme Court at the instruction of the JSC, but none of the JSC staff know anything about this. The commission members are being very secretive,” Velezinee said.

She further accused commission members of ordering the tampering of evidence submitted to the ICC.

“Two days ago the Secretary General admitted to me that recordings of meetings were edited ‘for ease of use,'” she claimed, “and recordings were cut before being sent to the Majlis so they would fit on one CD.”

It was also common practice for the commission to edit her out of the meeting minutes, she explained, and members were regularly given insufficient information on which to base their votes.

“I believe the public should have access to the full transcripts and recordings of the meetings,” she said. “The people will be outraged.”

Velezinee called for an open and transparent public inquiry into the activities of the JSC, with the participation of impartial mediators from an organisation such as the UN or the International Committee of Jurists, acceptable to both sides, “as we do not have anyone impartial enough [in the Maldives].”

“The judiciary is the foundation that will uphold the future of our country,” Velezinee said. “I want the opportunity to write a report, but have not yet been given the chance – all the evidence is available, and the public needs to hear this. If I am wrong they can shoot me.”

Minivan News attempted on several occasions to contact JSC President Mujthaz Fahmy and Speaker of Parliament Abdulla Shahid, but they were not responding at time of press.


Departing doctors leave IGMH unable to provide outpatient services to children

An acute lack of pediatric specialists in Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) has forced the hospital to temporarily close outpatient services for children, who make up 40 percent of the hospital’s patients.

Zubair Mohamed, Managing Director of Male’ Health Services Corporation – formerly the Chief Executive Officer of IGMH – said that there were only four pediatricians left after many left claiming to have family and personal problems, while others departed on vacation.

Zubair said that low wages and poor allowances were leading doctors to resign and return to their own countries.

”Most of the good doctors we have are from India,” Zubair said.

”They get almost the same salary as if they worked in India, so it’s not worth it for them to work here.”

A recent salary increase for doctors in India has made it even harder for the Maldives to attract and retain qualified medical staff.

Zubair said that the remaining four pediatricians were now working 24 hours on-call in the emergency and IPD units.

”Forty percent of the patients who come to the hospital are children,” Zubair said. ”They are a large group of patients.”

He said that patients hospitalised were now being given more priority than the patients who visited for diagnosis or treatment.

A pediatrician and a second doctor – a talented psychiatric specialist – left the hospital last week on vacation and have not returned.

”They usually leave saying that they have family and personal issues,” Zubair said. ”Only a few directly say that they cannot work for the low salary.”

As a consequence there would be no outpatient pediatric services available this week, he said.

”Hopefully we will get new pediatricians for the hospital very soon and restart services,” Zubair said. ”We need at least six doctors.”

Future of IGMH

When IGMH begins running as a corporation the salaries of doctors will rise and allowances will increase, Zubair promised.

”Right now all the doctors classed are civil servants, ” he explained, ”so we have to follow the regulations of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) and cannot provide them the allowances and salary as we would prefer.”

He said the new corporation had held a meeting with the CSC and discussed the matter, and estimated that it would take three months to start IGMH as a health services corporation.

Spokesperson for the CSC Fahmy Hassan said that the Male’ Health Corporation had held a meeting with the commission but ”it was not to discuss the doctor salaries.”

Fahmy said the commission in January asked the Finance Ministry how much they would be able to pay for the doctors salary and said that the commission was not legally authorised to pay any salary the commission wanted.

”We are now paying them the highest possible salary the Finance Ministry has agreed to give,” he said. ”We cannot pay a salary Finance Ministry disagrees with.”

Press secretary for the president Mohamed Zuhair said that the government had nothing to do with the CSC’s code of salary.

”The government will try to solve the problem somehow,” he said.

He said that the salaries of the doctors will increase when IGMH starts running under Male’ Health Corporation, “which was the main reason why we established it,” he said.Permanent Secretary for the Finance Ministry Ismail Shafeeq did not respond to Minivan News at time of press.


CSC claims ministers, councilors can’t take action against civil servants

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has claimed that according to the law the commission is the only body with the legal authority to dismiss or suspend a civil servant.

The commission has claimed that the councilor of Dhiyamigili in Thaa Atoll asked a civil servant to stay at home, an accusation which led to the Home Minister Mohamed Shihab being summoned to the parliament and questioned by Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ilham Ahmed.

Ilham on Monday asked the minister if a person in a political post could send a civil servant home.

The CSC released a statement which cited the minister as saying ”since a government’s office is established to provide services for the people, and as it’s the responsibility of the highest rank person at the time to manage it, I believe action could be taken.”

The CSC however claimed that “as article 46 [a] of the Civil Servant Act says, it is only the CSC who has legal authority to suspend a civil servant with or without salary. Ministers and councilors who are not among civil servants cannot ban a civil servant from coming to work,” the statement said.

Spokesperson for the CSC Mohamed Fahmy Hassan said the Home Ministry said had misled the people and claimed it was unlawful.

”If someone disrupts the peace, there are concerned authorities people should inform,” Fahmy said, ”there are departments with the authority to arrest and detain people. ”

He said that the commission never demanded or threatened any staff into joining a particular politcal party.

”The commission has never threatened a staff member hat he would be dismissed if does not join this party or that party,” he said. ”When we receive reports that a civil servant has broken the law, then we will take immediate action. ”

He notes that the councilor was not the authorised person to take action against the civil servant.

Island councilor for Dhiyamigili Adnan Ali said that it was the island chief who was asked to stay at home. But he did not give further information as he was ”very busy at the moment.”


CSC takes finance ministry to civil court over salary issue

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has filed a lawsuit against the finance ministry in the civil court, as it had previously threatened to do unless the ministry reinstated the reduced salaries.

The court confirmed the case was had been lodged and accepted, in an attempt “to cancel a decision taken by the ministry”. Yesterday the civil court returned a verdict in favour of the CSC in its attempt to overturn a decision made by the home ministry to cut the allowances of ‘responsible officers’ in atoll and island offices.

Spokesman for the CSC Mohamed Fahmy Hassan said the commission had informed the finance ministry that it was about to take the issue to court, and would not give out details of the case.

”The [finance ministry] said ‘hey, you decided to go to the courts, so lets see what the court says’,” Fahmy claimed.

Spokesman for the finance ministry Ismail Shafeeq said that the ministry would also not comment on the case now it had become a court matter.

”They are doing what’s right by them, so what shall we say about this?” he asked. ”The ministry can’t stop someone from going to the court”.

Press secretary for the president’s office Mohamed Zuhair said he still believed that the problem could be solved by negotiations.

”The government always wants to talk and solve the problem, and we still can talk and it even though there’s a court case,” he said.


Parliament called to arbitrate civil servant pay dispute

The ministry of finance has asked parliament and the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) to arbitrate a dispute between the ministry and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) over the restoration of civil servants’ salaries.

Parliament has been asked to act as a mediator as the ministry “does not believe a satisfactory solution can be found through discussions with the commission”.

Until the dispute is resolved, “employees will receive the salary that was reduced due to the economic circumstances,” the finance ministry’s statement said.

The CSC meanwhile criticised the ministry for a lack of communication and unwillingness to meet for discussions.

“They could ask us to sit down and discuss this tomorrow morning and we would be there,” said CSC member Mohamed Fahmy Hassan.

“We’ve sent many letters and made many requests for them to submit information but they have not submitted it to us,” he said.

The CSC was not opposed to the involvement of third parties such as the MMA, he said, but having another government institution like the MMA acting as a go-between “sounds a bit odd.”

“We can discuss the issue with MMA or the People’s Majlis, but there’s going to be no decision made without the involvement of the finance ministry.”

Parliament broke for recess in December and will begin its first session of the year in March.

Waiting game

On 30 December, the CSC issued a circular announcing that civil servants’ salaries and allowances had been restored to their former levels.

Since it was agreed that the pay cuts will be rescinded once government revenue exceeds Rf7 billion, the CSC argued, the salaries would have been “automatically reversed” when parliament approved this year’s budget with a revenue of over Rf7 billion.

However the finance ministry’s statement criticised the commission for the announcement as it came after the ministry had declared that the economic circumstances had not changed.

“And while it did not consult with the ministry, the fact that the Civil Service Commission did not seek the advice and counsel of the Maldives Monetary Authority, the most appropriate independent institution to approach before making such a decision, is regrettable,” it said.

No deal

The pay cuts of up to 20 per cent for civil servants were made necessary due to a fall in government income and an increase in expenditure, the ministry claimed.

In August, the government introduced a raft of austerity measures – including cutting back on travel, controlling capital items purchases, halting renovation and repairs unless necessary and pay cuts of 20 per cent for political appointees ranked higher than deputy minister to alleviate the inherited budget deficit.

Recurrent expenditure on salaries and allowances for government employees was 34 per cent of total expenditure in 2008, a 62 per cent increase from the previous year.

The International Monetary Fund [IMF] has noted that this puts the Maldives in first place among small island nations for the highest expenditure on government employees as a percentage of GDP.

Pay cuts for civil servants were enforced in October following protracted negotiations with the CSC.

The commission exercised clause 43[c] of its Act, which authorise it to alter salaries based on “special economic circumstances” subject to a review in three months.

“The measure proposed by this ministry to determine the special circumstances was the state’s income and expenditure,” the ministry’s statement read. “It was therefore agreed that the economic circumstances would be considered to have passed once the state’s annual income exceeds Rf7 billion, while it was also agreed that the state’s total income does not include foreign aid once-off revenue.”

It further added that the pay cuts were not made for a three-month period, but would be subject to a review to determine if the economic circumstances had changed.

The inclusion of foreign aid in the government’s budget is a particular point of contention, as it pushes the total revenue over Rf7 billion. Actual government revenue excluding foreign aid and once-off revenue was projected to be Rf6.8 billion in the budget.

“We understood it was the total revenue of the government. The ministry’s press release on 25 September said they were not going to exclude anything. This issue needs to be resolved,” said Fahmy.

Special circumstances would be considered to have improved when the state’s “recurring income” reaches Rf7 billion, the ministry said, and “not when it is estimated that Rf7 billion will be received in income.”

Scaring off donors

The opposition-dominated committee selected to review the budget made a recommendation to inject Rf617 million to restore civil servants’ salaries as the proposed budget had Rf7.05 billion in revenue.

While the original budget submitted to parliament had a deficit of 14.8 per cent and was acceptable to the IMF, the alternations made by parliament increased it to 18.8 per cent.

The ministry now estimates the deficit by the end of the year will exceed 18.8 per cent as the government will lose Rf150 million in revenue due to parliament’s failure to pass taxation legislation.

Increasing expenditure at the beginning of the year based on projected revenue was “not sensible at all”, the ministry insisted.

There were four ways the government could plug the deficit – printing money, financial assistance from international monetary organizations, obtaining commercial loans and devaluing the rufiyaa – all of which would have adverse effects of the economy.

Printing money would lead to inflation and a dollar shortage, taking commercial loans would make it harder for the private sector to secure loans and devaluing the currency would increase inflation and the price of imports.

Instead, the ministry reached agreements with the IMF, World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to obtain loans to plug the deficit.

However hiking salaries for government employees without increasing the revenue base was not “a sustainable fiscal or monetary policy”, and these international organisations have since informed the government that they are reconsidering the loans, the ministry’s statement said.

If the Maldives does not have an economic framework that is acceptable to the IMF, it continues, it would not be possible to obtain assistance or loans from other financial institutions.

Apart from potentially losing Rf755 million in assistance from the World Bank and ADB, the donor forum organised by the World Bank and scheduled for March could be canceled.

“Therefore, the ministry believes reducing expenditure is the wisest and most economically sensible way,” it said, adding that expenditure on wages had to be kept low until the economy rebounds.

Fahmy said the CSC was willing to negotiate and wished to meet the finance ministry “to hear their views on the economic circumstances.”

“We have always said that if there is a national crisis we will put the national interest above the interest of civil servants,” he said.

“But it is difficult to justify that to 29,000 civil servants if the government is spending on all the other items in the budget.”