The government has announced the completion of all housing units constructed by the state for people made homeless in the 2004 tsunami disaster.
In a joint press conference held today by the housing and finance ministries, Minister for Housing and Infrastructure Dr Mohamed Muizzu declared that 298 housing units in four islands in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll, and 41 housing units in Thaa Madifushi have now been completed.
Muizzu stated that the government had taken direct control of the project last November on the decision of President Abdulla Yameen following numerous attempts to negotiate with the contractors regarding the delays in work.
On the ninth anniversary of the disaster in December 2013, Yameen had pledged to complete permanent housing for all the 427 families who remained homeless.
Muizzu did not reveal whether new private contractors had been brought in to complete the unfinished work, saying only that there would be no “legal problems in any of the work the government has directly been involved in”.
He also stated that the government took over the project after seeking legal advice from the attorney general and noted that the Anti Corruption Commission and the auditor general were invited to review the proceedings.
Finance minister Abdulla Jihad stated that Vimla Construction Pvt Ltd was awarded a US$20 million contract in October 2008 to build the housing units in Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll for completion within 14 months. Jihad said that approximately US$16.6 million had been spent up to now.
He also noted that the delays and the need for the government to become directly involved in the completion of the housing units meant the projects were likely to cost more than expected, although the full amount has not yet been determined.
“STO has supplied substantial amounts, we estimate that the value (of supplies by STO) will be a significant sum,” Jihad said.
The finance ministry’s audit report of 2011 revealed that it had spent MVR17.5 million to transport materials for the construction of the tsunami housing units in Gaafu Dhaalu. The audit report noted that the expenses, which were not included in the finance ministry’s budget, should not have been paid.
Further, the audit report also recommended a specific audit be done and a report published on the tsunami housing units contracted to Vimla Construction.
The 2004 tsunami resulted in 82 deaths and 26 missing persons in the Maldives. Figures from the UN show that the disaster displaced nearly 10 percent of the Maldives’ population, severely damaging a quarter of inhabited islands with 14 completely evacuated.
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