Parliament today rejected the nomination of former Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) President Ali Rasheed Umar for Auditor General, a post which remains vacant more than eight months after former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem was contentiously removed through a vote of no-confidence.
Of the 69 MPs who participated in today’s vote, 34 voted against while 35 voted in favour, four short of the 39 votes needed for approval.
Press Secretary Mohamed Zuhair told Minivan News today that while the President’s Office will respect the parliament’s decision, the vote was marred by “political partisanship.”
Opposition MPs used their “brute majority” to reject a qualified candidate for political reasons, said Zuhair, adding that 35 votes in favour showed that Umar was “a popular nominee.”
In August, the parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that evaluated the nominee awarded him an average of 62 marks based on a criteria of educational qualification, experience, initiative and vision, and integrity, below the 75 percent mark needed for committee recommendation.
At today’s sitting, opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Ali Waheed said that parliament could not approve a nominee with 62 marks, urging President Mohamed Nasheed to consult with all political parties before putting forward nominations and “not just after internal discussions with those of a certain colour”.
Ali Waheed called on the government to nominate consensus candidates that all political parties could support.
In August, DRP MP Ahmed Nihan told Minivan News that Ali Rasheed Umar was dogged by “integrity issues” during his time at the ACC.
Former ACC member and the commission’s current President Hassan Luthfee is pursuing a defamation case against Umar in the civil court, after the ACC requested police to investigate Luthfee for allegedly leaking confidential information.
In July 2009, Luthfee sent a letter to the PAC containing information of an ongoing investigation into then-Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, claiming that the ACC was hushing up the investigation.
Umar alleged that Luthfee was attempting to curry favour with opposition MPs to secure his nomination to the new ACC.
While President Mohamed Nasheed nominated Luthfee for the commission in June, he withdrew the nominee after the Attorney General filed a case against Luthfee for allegedly not completing a government bond in his time at the Auditor General’s Office.
However, parliament rejected President Nasheed’s substitute nominee and approved Luthfee to the commission.
Meanwhile in March this year, parliament dismissed Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem from his post after the ACC forwarded two cases for prosecution alleging that Naeem used an official credit card to purchase personal items and fund a private visit to the island of Thulhadhoo in Baa Atoll.
Naeem denied the accusations, claiming that the cases were an attempt to discredit his office, which had issued over 30 audit reports of government ministries and state institution alleging rampant corruption under the former government.
He further claimed that opposition MPs were trying to prevent his office from recovering stolen assets in overseas bank accounts.
“A lot of the government’s money was taken through corrupt [means] and saved in the banks of England, Switzerland, Singapore and Malaysia,” Naeem claimed.