Deputy Minister of Islamic Affairs Dr Aishath Muneeza has said that the updated regulations for Maldivian Hajj pilgrims would help prevent Hajj-related fraud cases in the future.
Muneeza told Minivan News that the new regulations published in the Government Gazette today would make the whole Hajj process more transparent and accessible.
“We have brought major changes to the existing Hajj regulations,” said Dr Muneeza, who also serves as Chair at the state owned Hajj Corporation – officially inaugurated last week (January 20).
Dr Muneeza said one of the biggest improvements to the regulation was the introduction of a new bank guarantee to be held at the Islamic ministry paid by the Hajj agencies, requiring the agencies to deposit 25 percent of the price per head when submitting proposals.
The regulation states that the deposited money will be used to cover any required expenses which have not been paid for by the agency such as airlines or hotel payments. It also states that the money will be taken to the ministry if it receives news that the agency has taken more customers than the quota assigned to the company.
While the Hajj Corporation is to handle 50 percent of the quota given by the Saudi Arabian government, the remaining slots are equally distributed to three private companies after a bidding process.
“We have also changed the requirements of agencies submitting proposals to the ministry,” explained Dr Muneeza. “The managing director of the company should now have five years’ experience of taking people to Hajj compared to the previous one year of experience”.
Under the new regulations, the license will not be released to the company if “anyone convicted or suspected fraudulent Hajj transactions are present in the board of directors or management,” requiring the companies to hand in the criminal records of all board members while submitting the proposals.
“The new law would also require the agencies to submit a timeline to the ministry giving itself deadlines such as the dates by when tickets are brought, money is taken from customers. This allows the ministry to keep track of the agencies while giving them some leeway to construct their own timeline,” said Dr Muneeza.
Speaking at the ceremony inaugurating Hajj Corporation last week, Islamic minister Dr Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed – while pledging to reduce the cost of the pilgrimage – said that the government has become more involved in the Hajj grips after the activities of unscrupulous Hajj companies.
Last year, the government covered the expenses of 121 defrauded customers of the Al-Fathuh Hajj Umra Group with an amount in excess of US$500,000.
Dr Shaheem revealed to the press that Al-Fathuh only informed the ministry that it would be not be able to take the customers to Mecca the day prior their departure.
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