State spent Rf1.3 million on Gayooms’ health expenses 2010-2012

A total of Rf1.3 million (US$84,300) was spent on healthcare costs for former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom and his wife from 2010 to April this year, MP Ahmed Hamza of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) revealed at parliament’s Finance Committee meeting yesterday.

The MP for Bilehdhoo revealed the figures during committee deliberations on a request by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury to establish rules and guidelines for covering health expenses for former presidents and their spouses.

According to the Finance Ministry, Rf302,560 (US$19,621) was spent for the Gayooms’ healthcare in 2010, Rf713,803 (US$46,290) in 2011 and Rf298,572 (US$19,363) so far this year.

Article 7 of the Protection and Privileges for Former Presidents Act (Dhivehi) – the first piece of legislation passed by the then-opposition majority parliament after convening in May 2009 – stipulates that healthcare for ex-presidents and their spouses either in the Maldives or overseas shall be provided by the state.

The law however does not set any limits to the health expenses to be borne by the state.

In addition to healthcare costs, Rf3.86 million (US$250,324) was spent on the former president’s office in 2010, Rf2.1 million (US$136,187) in 2011 and Rf700,000 (US$45,396) as of April this year.

Finance Committee
Finance Committee meeting on 12 June

Local media reported that following discussions at the Finance Committee yesterday, MPs decided to recommend that the Finance Ministry purchase a health insurance package for former presidents.

MP Hamza suggested offering an insurance package similar to those provided to retired high-ranking officials at the United Nations.

MP Ahmed “Redwave” Saleem of Gayoom’s Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) reportedly insisted that the package should cover all forms of treatment to be in compliance with article 7 of the Protection and Privileges Act.

However, most MPs concurred that there should be a ceiling limit for healthcare costs for former presidents.

The legislation on protection and privileges for ex-presidents was required under article 128 of the constitution, which states, “A person who has served in the office of president, serving his term of office lawfully without committing any offence, shall be entitled to the highest honour, dignity, protection, financial privileges and other privileges entitled to a person who has served in the highest office of the land. Such protection and privileges shall be specified in law.”


Prior to the passage of the Act in October 2009, MPs of the then-ruling MDP denounced the monetary benefits in the draft legislation as excessive and “unreasonable.”

The bill stipulated a monthly allowance of Rf75,000 (US$6,000) in addition to Rf50,000 (US$4,000) for housing and Rf175,000 (US$14,000) for staff and office space.

The ruling party said at the time that the total figure would shoot up once the cost of health, transportation and security was taken into account, estimating that a total of Rf3 million (US$233,000) would be spent a month on former President Gayoom.

MDP MP for Hithadhoo North, Mohamed Aslam, observed that ex-presidents would be allowed to seek medical care anywhere in the world at the state’s expense.

“The benefits are too high as Rf300,000 (US$19,450) a month for someone who has retired is beyond reasonable expectations,” Aslam had argued. “Also, the government is in a financial crisis and it will be difficult to pay such a huge amount.”


Finance Committee decision to grant ownership of state-owned flats to three judges “unconstitutional”, finds ACC

Approval by parliament’s Finance Committee to three judges occupying state-owned apartments to purchase the flats was granted in violation of the constitution and Judges Act, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) revealed today, informing the committee to review its decision.

A press statement by the ACC explained that it investigated a complaint alleging three senior judges were occupying state-owned apartments while simultaneously receiving living allowances.

“The complaint states that giving flats only to certain judges is giving them unjust privileges,” ACC Deputy Chair Muaviz Rasheed told Minivan News in April.

The three judges living in flats leased during President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s administration by the former Justice Ministry and High Court – under terms that would see the now-defunct ministry and High Court gain ownership upon completion of full payment – are Supreme Court Justice Ali Hameed, High Court Judge Ahmed Shareef and Civil Court Judge Abdullah Adheeb.

The three judges had reportedly been paying rent for the flats in the government-owned Sina-Male’ apartment blocks when the committee decided to grant them ownership upon completion of full payment.

According to its statement, the ACC found that the Finance Committee’s decision to register the flats to the judges was in violation of article 102 of the constitution and article 38 of the Judges Act as well as section 100(a)(11) of the parliamentary rules of procedure.

Article 102 of the constitution states that salary and allowances for members of the judiciary and independent commissions shall be determined by the People’s Majlis.

The Finance Committee’s decision – which was not endorsed by a vote on the Majlis floor – was officially communicated to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) on February 6 this year.

“If the decision is implemented, the result will be three judges receiving living assistance or additional benefits not afforded to other judges of the court in direct violation of article 39(b) of the Judges Act,” the ACC statement reads.

Article 39(b) of the Judges Act states that judges in the same court shall be given the same amount as living allowances and prohibits “different kinds of living allowance or benefits for different judges.”

Following its investigation, the ACC informed the Finance Committee on May 23 (Wednesday) to review the decision. The financial oversight committee is chaired by People’s Alliance MP Ahmed Nazim, who was cleared of corruption charges in February.


Meanwhile, the audit report of the Department of Judicial Administration (DJA) for 2010 revealed that Supreme Court Justices used state funds in violation of the Public Finance Act to settle phone bills, cover expenses for an anniversary celebration and repair a state-owned car.

According to the audit report, the interim Supreme Court bench on October 23, 2008 decided to provide for each Justice “a post-paid line, a phone and to pay the phone bill without a set limit out of the court’s budget”.

“From October 2008 to December 2011, a total of Rf281,519.71 (US$18,256) was spent on phone bills,” the audit revealed, noting that phone expenses for Supreme Court Justices were not included in the salary and allowances approved by parliament.

In addition, the audit found that expenses for the Supreme Court’s annual anniversary celebrations were covered from the court’s budget, which included Rf22,100 (US$1,433) for corsages, Rf12,177 (US$790) for catering and Rf44,000 (US$2,853) to prepare two video documentaries.

To avoid a public announcement to seek estimates for the documentary, the audit found that the work was divided and awarded to the same party under two agreements.

The audit also discovered that Rf13,200 (US$856) was spent out of the apex court’s budget to repair a state-owned car used by a Supreme Court Justice.

According to the police report, the driver of the Justice’s car was responsible for the accident, which occurred on January 23, 2011. However, the official driver insisted the car was undamaged when he left it the previous night.

In a second case, the audit found that the Chief Justice Ahmed Faiz used two court drivers for his official car instead of taking the monthly car allowance of Rf6,500 (US$421) approved by parliament.

A total of Rf255,832.92 (US$16,590) was spent in 2011 to pay salaries and allowances for the two drivers, who had previously been used by the interim Chief Justice Abdulla Saeed.

Despite the findings of the audit report, in March 2011 the Supreme Court dismissed allegations of corruption reported in local media regarding phone allowances and use of court funds to repair Justice Ali Hameed’s car.

Meanwhile in September 2011 the ACC was asked to investigate an official trip to Addu City by Justice Abdulla Saeed from August 30 to September 2, which took place during a four-day government holiday for Eid al-Fitr.

Local daily Haveeru reported in the same month that the ACC was investigating allegations that over Rf50,000 (US$3,200) of state funds was spent on plane tickets for Justice Ali Hameed’s official visit to China in December 2010.


ACC investigates awarding of state-owned apartments to judges

Judges occupying state-owned apartments while simultaneously receiving living allowances are currently under investigation following accusations that they are receiving unfair privileges, the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) has confirmed.

“We have received complaints that some judges are living in government flats and taking living allowances. The complaint states that giving flats to only certain judges is giving them unjust privileges,” ACC Deputy Chair Muaviz Rasheed said.

Three judges are living in flats leased to the former Justice Ministry, including Supreme Court Judge Ali Hameed, High Court Judge Ahmed Shareef and Civil Court Judge Abdullah Adheeb, according to local newspaper Haveeru.

Meanwhile, Haveeru also reported that the parliament’s Finance Committee has decided to grant the ownership of those flats to the judges and has forwarded the matter to the floor for a vote.

A Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP belonging to the finance committee confirmed the decision was taken in his absence during a committee meeting last month.

Minivan News could not get details of the decision at the time of press.

The finance committee is headed by MP Ahmed Nazim from the People’s Alliance (PA). the party headed by former President Gayoom’s half brother, Abdulla Yameen.  Multiple counts of fraud against Nazim were recently dismissed by the Criminal Court.

Asked whether the parliament committee can grant ownership of state property to judges, Muaviz responded that “I cannot comment on as it may affect the ongoing investigation.”

However, he added that parliament must follow the laws while deciding the salaries and privileges of independent institutions.

According to the Judges Act article 39(a) judges belonging to the same court shall be granted equal salaries and living allowances. Any discrimination in giving living allowances or benefits to judges is restricted under the same clause.

Under the state’s revised pay structure, judges of Superior courts receive Rf45,000, including a Rf30,000 basic salary and a Rf15,000 living allowance while island courts magistrates are paid Rf20,000, including a Rf16,000 basic salary and a Rf4,000 living allowance.

The Supreme Court Judges meanwhile receive a basic salary of Rf51,000 and a living allowance of Rf20 ,000 and the High Court Judges are paid Rf38,000 as basic salary and Rf15,000 as living allowance.

The revised pay structure endorsed by the parliament in 2010, raised the judiciary’s wages and allowances by 87 percent. According to the wage structure, Rf89 million (US$5.7 million) was included in the budget to cover the salaries and benefits for 244 judges in 2011, compared to the Rf 41 million (US$2.7 million) spent in the previous year.


MNBC investigated for suspicious transactions

Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation (MNBC) is being investigated by Parliament for transactions that allegedly transgress the Public Finance Act.

Villufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed, Eydhafushi MP Ahmed ‘Red Wave’ Saleem, Alifushi MP Mohamed Nashiz and Nolhivaram MP Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed have been appointed to lead a sub-committee of the parliamentary Finance Committee and carry out the investigation, reports Haveeru.

A letter has been sent to MNBC requesting relevant information.

Details of the alleged transactions are unknown.