MDP councillors refute allegations of corruption in Malé city clean-up project

Opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) councillors have released a counter-statement disputing allegations of corruption in the granting of the ‘Clean Green Malé’ project to Business Image Group (BIG).

The release came in response to a statement released yesterday by three Malé City councillors affiliated with the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM).

The project was granted to BIG with the support of all councillors – including the three from PPM.

Signed by Malé City Mayor Mohamed Shihab and six MDP affiliated councillors, the statement said the agreement to contract BIG to implement the ‘Clean Green Malé’ project was unanimously voted for at a council meeting attended by the three councillors who had released yesterday’s statement.

It explained that the agreement made with BIG by the previous government was revised and an amended agreement was signed on February 1 this year.

“An agreement was signed between Malé City Council and Business Image Group to conduct the ‘Nala Fehi’ Malé [Clean Green Male’] initiative on October 3, 2011. As this previous agreement did not include the cleaning and sweeping of the streets of Malé, the Malé City Council and Business Image Group held further discussions on the matter and signed a revised agreement inclusive of this on February 1, 2014,” the statement read.

“As one of the main concerns voiced to the newly elected council members by the public regards the levels of cleanliness in the city, we held numerous discussions on the matter,” it stated, adding that the council unanimously decided to expedite implementation of the project contracted to BIG.

Claim and counter-claim

While the PPM councillors’ statement claimed “accommodation for labourers brought in to do the cleaning work needs to be provided by Malé City Council”, today’s response rejected the claims, stating that BIG will be employing 100 Maldivians to do the cleaning work, meaning there is no need to provide accommodation for any of the employees.

The statement released by PPM councillors Ibrahim Mamnoon, Zaidhul Ameen, and Mohamed Sajid claimed that the mayor and deputy mayor were exerting undue pressure to “maintain the agreement with BIG”, and that the Anti Corruption Commission is currently investigating the matter.

Their statement was issued to inform the public of the reasons behind the three PPM councillors’ absence from the project’s inauguration event, adding “we assure you that we will cooperate with any and all efforts made for the good of the people”.

Meanwhile, the council has claimed that the permit to hold the event was withdrawn by the government at short notice.

“While we had spent large funds on the preparation of the Iskandhar School hall for the event, at the last minute the school was asked to cancel the reservation by the government, stating that it is instead needed by the Ministry of Education.”

“When after multiple attempts, we were unable to find another location for the event at such notice, we held the event outside the gates of Iskandhar School, albeit facing many challenges.”

“While STELCO initially agreed to provide us with temporary electricity for the event, and one of their staff members were actively working on doing so, we would like to inform the public that the government exerted influence on this company as well and stopped them from providing electricity for our event,” the statement read.

The council revealed that the event had been held with the assistance of nearby residents, who provided electricity to hold the event.

Local media further reported that no government officials had been present at the event.

BIG rejects allegations

Meanwhile, BIG Sales and Marketing Director Hassan Ismail has also dismissed the claims of the PPM councillors, suggesting they were fabrications targeted to confuse the public.

“I don’t know from where they have gotten the idea that the council has agreed to give us land,” said Hassan.

“We have done a lot of work under the clean up Malé programme even to date. We have even planted over 800 trees. On the contrary, we have only put up about 38 billboards. The billboards are being put up as a means to getting returns, through the funds we get from them, we are paying part of the salaries of the labourers, and other such expenses,” he continued.

Hassan acknowledged that the council had initially been asked to provide accommodation for labourers before the decision to employ Maldivians was made.

“As for the nursery, the council is not ‘giving’ it to us. Instead, the truth behind the matter is, they keep the plants we import to be planted in Malé there. It is their property in the end, and we are assisting them.”