• Watchdog to Lapdog: Independent Institutions in Need of Reform

    न्यूजलाईन्स् मिडिया संवाददाता
    प्रकाशित मिति : २९ मंसिर २०७८, बुधबार १०:३२

    On 17th November 2018 Ibrahim Mohamed Solih swore in as the 7th President of the Republic of Maldives. This was marked with promises of transparency and good governance. Shortly afterwards I what was one of his most memorable quotes, President Solih assured to the public that his administration will have a “zero tolerance” for corruption and soon after the President’s Office launched a whistleblower portal. Though it was criticized for rerouting potential cases from going to the actual Anti-Corruption Commission of Maldives, the portal remains open.

    Into the 3rd year of his Presidency, allegations of rampant corruption have been floating around with ruling party parliamentarians accusing government ministers of embezzling state funds while the opposition members have accused senior government officials of illicitly enriching themselves. One such notable case which is yet to be investigated is the peripatetic Foreign Affairs Minister turned UN PGA Abdulla Shahid who used state funds to purchase tickets from Maldives to the United Kingdom and back, which he reimbursed to the state only after it was reported to the ACC.

    A more recent case of corruption tolerated by Solih’s administration and its anti-corruption watchdog is the procurement of ventilators in the fight against the COVID 19 pandemic. The health ministry fast tracked and procurement order for 75 ventilators and half of the payment was paid upfront to a Dubai company which was later found to be a paper company without even a trade license. To this date, not a single suspect has been prosecuted for embezzling millions from state coffers, amidst a pandemic.

    This blunder however pales in comparison to the amount of state funds lost outside of courts and arbitration to companies with close ties to the ruling party as “compensation”.

    Till date more than MVR 2.4 billion has been handed over to companies with close connections to the ruling party for damages incurred to them after the current government dissolved PSIP projects awarded to them. But, if we are to the millions lost in the COVID-19 pandemic the total sum lost from state coffers would be much higher than MVR 2.4 billion, which begs the question, where is the Anti-Corruption Commission of Maldives?

    Not only has the ACC failed to take the initiative to investigate these cases, as of date not a single case has been sent for prosecution. The Anti-Corruption watchdog currently headed by the former Executive Director of Transparency Maldives Mariyam Shiuna who is a close associate of the President’s former Policy Secretary and current Technology Minister Mariyam Shauna who herself is allegedly involved in the Seaplane Terminal corruption scandal, has repeatedly failed to execute her duties as the head of the institution dedicated to curbing corruption within the government.

    But the trail of corruption and influence doesn’t just end at the Anti-Corruption Commission. Rapid reform is needed for all state institutions including the current Judicial Watchdog which has also been experiencing the same symptoms as the ACC, prominent ruling party activists being appointed to key positions within the government. The appointment MP Hisaan Hussein to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) who is the long time lawyer and close friend of the ruling party president Mohamed Nasheed, has been met with much criticism by both the public and the opposition party.

    Hisaan’s appointment to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) was soon marked by the suspension of the Chief Justice of the Criminal Court Judge Hailam, who later released a statement alleging that senior officials within the government including the Presidents Chief of Staff had contacted him and threatened him in a bid to ensure that the former President Abdulla Yameen’s case which he presided over would end with a conviction. A Chief Justice accusing the state of interfering in the judicial process is a serious matter which needs investigating. But till date, no government institution has even addressed nor acknowledged the accusations.

    This trend of this government acting ignorant to public outcry and accusations of corruption only helps pave way for corruption and an increasing tolerance to bureaucratic blunders and incompetence from senior officials. And with the ruling party holding a super majority over the parliament, the appointment of ruling party activists to key positions within independent bodies continue to fuel the degradation of public trust in the government and all its institutions.

    Independent Institutions such as the ACC and the JSC are meant to be operated outside of the influence of the Parliament and the Executive Office. But when these intuitions come under the direct influence of the ruling party, it not only paves way for corruption and injustice, it decays the democratic system that this young nation has so fought so valiantly to achieve. State institutions which are to act as watchdogs should remain independent and vigilant to all wrong doings to ensure good governance and transparency. via: maldives news network

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