Former state ministers deny allegations in Home Ministry’s audit report

Two former state ministers for home affairs have denied allegations in the ministry’s audit report for 2010 that they were paid salaries for a year without attending the office, with one accusing the Auditor General of political bias.

The audit report released last week stated that the two political appointees were paid salaries and benefits, amounting to over MVR800,000 (US$51,880) from January to December 2010, while one was working at the Presidential Commission and the other at the Maldives Customs Service.

The two political appointees referred to in the report were Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed, a member of the Presidential Commission, and Mohamed Aswan, former principal collector of customs.

The report found that Aswan was paid January’s salary from both institutions.

“Although the two posts were created for the Ministry of Home Affairs, as the ministry did not receive any service from the two appointees, this office believes that the President’s Office’s creation of the two posts cannot be considered for the need of the ministry,” the report stated.

The audit report contended that the two appointees were paid salaries out of the Home Ministry’s budget in violation of budgetary rules, which had compromised the validity of the ministry’s financial statement.

Mohamed Aswan, presently commissioner general of customs, however issued a press statement on Thursday denying that he was paid salaries from both the Maldives Customs Service and Home Ministry in 2010.

Aswan explained that he was paid January’s salary from both offices due to “an administrative error” caused due to a delay in exchanging official documentation confirming the transfer.

He added that errors in processing salaries and benefits of government employees were commonplace and, once identified, were usually remedied with the necessary changes the following month.

Aswan also noted that the administrative task of paying salaries and benefits for political appointees was a responsibility of the permanent secretary, the highest-ranking civil servant in government offices.

In 2010, Aswan’s press release stated, he was simultaneously working in three government posts but received salaries and benefits only from the Home Ministry, which he did not believe was “against the law.”

In addition to acting head of customs at the time, Aswan was also a member of the Presidential Commission set up by former President Mohamed Nasheed to investigate allegations of embezzlement and misappropriation of state funds by the regime of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Aswan was appointed state minister for home affairs in January 2010 to reform the police service following cabinet deliberations.

As a former National Security Service lieutenant, Aswan was the deputy in charge of Maafushi jail when 19-year old inmate Evan Naseem was beaten to death and several inmates shot to death in a subsequent prison riot in September 2003.

In July 2003, Aswan had filed a detailed report on systematic abuse and institutionalised torture in Maafushi jail, warning of “disastrous consequences” if corrective measures were not taken immediately.

“Political bias”

Sheikh-Hussain-Rasheed-AhmedWriting in his personal website, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed, former co-chair of the Presidential Commission, meanwhile slammed Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim for “attempting to discredit the government toppled in a coup d’etat.”

The former president of the Adhaalath Party explained that he was appointed state minister to oversee and expedite investigations into rampant corruption alleged in over 30 audit reports by former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem as “the relevant authorities were not adequately looking into the cases.”

Rasheed insisted that both he and Aswan attended the home ministry to carry out the tasks they were entrusted with by the President.

“The Presidential Commission was tied to the President’s Office and the Home Ministry,” he wrote. “When the commission completed the investigation stages, we were submitting reports to the President and relevant departments under the Home Ministry. In addition to the President’s Office, we also provided information to the Anti-Corruption Commission.”

Arguing that the current Auditor General made no effort to ascertain the work done by the pair at the Home Ministry, Rasheed accused Niyaz of “working in your own defence” and “trying to please the current government which is in place through a coup d’etat.”

Rasheed said that he sent his monthly attendance records to the President’s Office and kept the Home Minister informed of his work. Moreover, the permanent secretary was notified ahead of official leaves, Rasheed said, adding that “the Auditor General made no effort to obtain any of this information.”

“Are you unwilling to release an audit report on the double pension President Maumoon is taking illegally out of fear over a no-confidence motion [in parliament]?” Rasheed asked.

Rasheed further claimed that Niyaz attempted to intervene in the Presidential Commission’s investigation of the alleged US$800 million illegal oil trade carried out under the chairmanship of MP Abdulla Yameen at the State Trading Organisation (STO).

“Did you not try to get the documents [related to the case] first from the Anti-Corruption Commission?” Rasheed wrote. “When the Presidential Commission refused to provide you with the information, you even visited STO Singapore.”

Following these unsuccessful attempts, Rasheed alleged that Auditor General Niyaz tried to obtain the documents through an audit of the President’s Office and the Presidential Commission, suggesting that the section in the Home Ministry’s audit report concerning his salary was “retaliation” by the Auditor General.

The audit report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 2010 made public in July was similarly slammed by former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed as “politically motivated and phrased to mislead the public.”


Religious scholars dispute government’s healthcare scheme

The vice president of religious organisation Jamiyyath-al-Salaf, Sheikh Hassan Moosa Fikry has claimed the government’s ‘Madhana’ healthcare scheme resembles an insurance program and is against the principles of Islam.

Sheikh Hassan said that the Madhana health insurance scheme “was not a balanced system” and represented
”a loss for both the people and the government.”

He also claimed that the Madhana scheme was not organised according to the Islamic banking system.

‘Madhana’ is a scheme run by the government that provides up to Rf100,000 (US$7782) of medical treatment for members, in return for an annual fee of Rf2000 (US$155).

”For example, I pay the government Rf2000 to take part in the Madhana program, and if I do not get ill that year, wouldn’t that be a loss of Rf2000 for me?” Sheikh Hassan said.

He claimed that the State Minister for Islamic Affairs Sheikh Mohamed Shaheem Ali Saeed once wrote a religious article about insurance, which on the first paragraph stated that health insurance was not allowed for Muslims.

However President of the Adhaalath Party Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed said that all health insurance programs were allowed under Islam, with the exception of self-insurance, and that Madhana was “a help” offered by the government to its people.

”I’m not saying this in response to what Salaf has said,” he added.

Religious scholar Sheik Ilyas Hussein also claimed that only self-insurance was prohibited for Muslims.

“If the Madhana health scheme was done as business then it might be a problem,” he said. “If it is done as charity it would be allowed.”

Spokesman for the Islamic Ministry Sheikh Ahmadhulla said he could not comment on the issue at the moment “because this is a religious matter” and he did not have the right to give religious advice.

Permanent secretary for the Health Ministry Sheena Moosa said that she was also unable to comment as the issue was a religious matter, but claimed the Madhana scheme was not modelled on health insurance.

”We do it as charity for the benefit of people,” she said, adding that the government did not invest any of the money received it received through the scheme.

”We keep all the money as a separate fund,” she explained.