Mayor Shifa Mohamed

10 November 2020.
The Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) lodged a case against Male’ City Mayor Shifa Mohamed, regarding the development of a park in the South-East coast of Male’. The Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) has sent the case back to ACC to revise certain aspects of investigative process which must be completed before charges can be filed against the Mayor.

ACC contended that the construction of on-site public toilets were handed over to Amin Construction without a bidding process or a legal agreement. The commission further noted that the construction of the facility commenced prior to receiving an official approval from the state.

Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)-aligned Councillor Mohamed Fazeen first blew the whistle on the alleged scandal in October 2019. He noted that multiple companies were contracted for the park and that development operations were being conducted without approval from the council.

Mayor Shifa Mohamed has denied the allegations. Public Finance Act requires that any project that costs over MVR 35,000 must be open for public tender and awarded through a competitive process. Shifa had previously confirmed that the project costed millions.

Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem has withdrawn from the case over a potential conflict of interest as he is related to the mayor.

In another development The Parliament’s Judiciary Committee, on Thursday, voted on requesting Prosecutor General Hussain Shameem to review his decision to not press charges against the suspects involved in the questionable procurement of 75 ventilators for Maldives’ COVID-19 response. PGO felt that there was not enough evidence to prosecute the case. ACC was of opinion that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute the case.

As part of the government’s COVID-19 response efforts, the health ministry had signed agreements with Naadu Pvt Ltd to procure 24 ventilators and MedTech Maldives Pvt Ltd to secure 50 ventilators, in addition to the 75 ventilators from Dubai-based Executors General Trading LLC.

ACC alleged that the bid committee did not conduct due diligence concerning Executors General Trading since Minister Ameen had presented the company as having been recommended by WHO. Advance payment was made to the Dubai-based company using false documentation showing the receipt of 65 mechanical ventilators and 10 portable ventilators, despite the fact that the goods were not sent to Maldives. The audit report also pointed out that the agreements with the local companies Naadu Pvt Ltd and MedTech Maldives were not up to the mark. Furthermore all three suppliers failed to supply the goods on time. Ten ventilators provided by Executors (Dubai company) did not meet standards stipulated in the agreements and could not be used to treat COVID-19 patients.

Minister Ameen had recused himself from all official duties until the conclusion of the investigation on August 17. The Financial Controller and members of the bid committee were suspended by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. The President’s Office recently lifted the suspension on State Minister Shah and ordered him to resume his duties after ACC absolved him of participating in corruption.

The Auditor General’s Office published a compliance audit on the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 expenditure, revealing that the ministry had spent over MVR 30 million in violation of the Public Finance Act.

Speaker of Parliament Mohamed Nasheed had asked the parliament to look into the dispute between the PGO and ACC. The Judiciary Committee also noted that the Health Ministry’s procurement process had loopholes that could give room to corruption. The committee supported ACC’s statement that no Article of the Public Finance Act can be interpreted to contradict with its purpose, which is to ensure rightful spending of state funds.

The committee also noted the absence of police contribution to the case although the investigations were carried out by the ACC and Police jointly.

The Judiciary Committee requested PG Office to collect additional information about the case, review it and inform the committee of the final decision.

The joint-report prepared by ACC and the police confirmed the violations that were pointed out in the Auditor General’s report.

The Edition reported.