Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq has expressed concern today that current Elections Commission (EC) staff could be held responsible for the potential misdeeds of employees no longer working for the body.
The claims were made after the Financial Committee yesterday discussed taking action against the EC after Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim raised concern over an apparent failure to document Rf15 million of spending by the body.
Niyaz said that the Financial Committee debate concerned an audit report from 2010. However, he claimed that particular concerns were raised during the discussions over a portion of Rf54 million that was spent over a three year period.
When asked about the precise period of time under scrutiny, Niyaz stated that more time was needed to acquire these exact details.
It was revealed late last year that the 2010 Auditor General’s report had uncovered “irresponsible” spending by the Elections Commission. This spending was said to include the illegal withdrawal of allowances, the purchasing of an excessive number of expensive phones and computers, and overtime pay for unconfirmed work.
However, Thaufeeq stressed he was confident over the conduct of the current commission.
“None of the members in the present commission have done anything against the financial regulations or the constitution,” he claimed. “We are very much ready to prove we are innocent. The present committee doesn’t have to be responsible before November 24, 2009.”
Despite his assertions that the expenses concerned pre-date the current incarnation of the EC, Thaufeeq had the impression that the government were going after current members.
He added that the expenses being referred to by the Financial Committee in their discussions related to the period before the current commission body was assembled on November 24, 2009. The Auditor General concurred with Thaufeeq that the period in question did pre-date the current Election Commissioner’s tenure.
Niyaz also noted that some MPs had been keen to see the case referred to the police – a decision he claimed to be against.
“I associate the case with mismanagement rather than criminal fraud,” Niyaz added.
EC under pressure
The ability of the EC to fulfil its mandate has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after the body was cited as one of the obstacles to free and fair elections by government representatives.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon told the BBC that there could be no early elections in the country as institutions such as the judiciary, the human rights commission, and the elections commission needed strengthening.
The United States pledged $500,000 in technical support the same week as these statements were made.
However, State Minister Dunya Maumoon reaffirmed the government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) which has called for early elections in the country.
CMAG reconvened on Monday, criticising what it saw as a lack of political progress being made to facilitate early elections in the Maldives.
The Commonwealth human rights body suggested that stronger measures would be taken against the government should President Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan’s Committee of National Inquiry (CNI) not address CMAG’s concerns about its independence and impartiality. The CNI is charged with conducting an independent investigation into the transfer of power in February.
Meanwhile, Thaufeeq assured Minivan News before last weekend’s by-elections that the EC was capable of carrying out its duties.
“We are confident we can organise any election mandated by law – whether it is a presidential election, referendum, or by-election. We will serve our duty,” he said at the time.
The two council elections and two parliamentary by-elections held last weekend were the second test of the EC’s capabilities since the controversial change of government earlier this year. The polls passed without significant incident and Thaufeeq told the media that he had received no complaints that would bring the results into disrepute.
However, concerns are said to have been raised in some diplomatic circles over the potential for politically motivated attempts to discredit Commissioner Thaufeeq.
A source present at a meeting of the UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Maldives on March 21 reported to Minivan News that Dr Ahmed Shaheed, former Foreign Minister and United Nations Special Rapporteur to Iran, specifically raised concerns over the position of the Election Commissioner.
He was reported to have told the panel of UK politicians of his concerns that Commissioner Thaufeeq may be targeted by the regime due to his independent political stance.