Ex-home minister faces graft allegations in Independence 50 celebrations

Home minister Umar Naseer gestures during an interview with Mihaaru. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

Home minister Umar Naseer gestures during an interview with Mihaaru. MIHAARU PHOTO/MOHAMED SHARUHAAN

The Maldives government is accusing former Minister of Home Affairs Umar Naseer with corruption involved in awarding the activities to celebrate the nation’s 50th Independence Day in 2015.

The Anti-Corruption Committee (ACC) carried out a sudden investigation in the Home Ministry early Monday. Shortly afterwards, the ministry held an urgent press conference during which the incumbent Home Minster Azleen Ahmed declared that some of the activities and events held to celebrate Independence 50 had been awarded under procedures that facilitated corruption. He claimed that they were carried out under the supervision of former Home Minister Umar.

According to Minister Azleen, the Audit Office is also probing the celebrations of Independence 50 in addition to ACC on grounds of certain activities having been awarded in violation of the Public Finance Act. He accused that some contractors were tasked with multiple activities and that the ministry had paid amounts above the limit for some procurement and services.

“We noted that some activities were awarded without a specific price and agreement. We’re also receiving information that some events were awarded to contractors as per the [former] minister’s wishes, bypassing the ministry’s procurement section and financial accountability.”

The celebrations of Independence 50 were carried out by a special committee under the supervision of the President’s Office, including a committee of ministers. The government at the time had denied allegations of corruption regarding the Independence 50 feast and awarding of activities.

On being inquired whether the sudden accusations of corruption in Independence 50 are particularly targeting the former home minister, Azleen stated that he was not looking to lay allegations against any specific person.

“Regardless of who is the minister at the time, whether it is myself, under no circumstance do they have the power to go against the Public Finance Act of the Maldives,” he said, declaring that major expenses from the state budget must be transparent.

Minister Azleen concluded that the total expenses from the Independence 50 budget that facilitated corruption and which expenses were specifically authorised by special permission from the state would be clear by the end of ACC and Audit Office’s investigations.

The former Home Minister Umar Naseer has announced his candidacy for the Presidential Elections 2018 against President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom. He has been highly critical of the current administration, describing it as the most corrupt government to date. However, Umar has repeatedly declared that despite acts of corruption by the government during his tenure as home minister, he himself has never been involved in graft under any circumstances.

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