The previous government of Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) had leased 17 islands and a lagoon without notice or bid in 2011, revealed a special report released by the Audit Office.
According to the Audit Report, the National Planning Council (NPC), which was founded in 2009 and chaired by the previous President Mohamed Nasheed, had received 660 proposals to rent islands for resort development under the CSR model. The report stated that MDP’s government had decided to lease islands for resort development, agriculture and fisheries. However, the then government had leased 17 islands and a lagoon in 2011 without officially listing the names of the islands and lagoon in a public notice or announcing a deadline for proposal submissions.
Former President Nasheed’s government had come under fire after it surfaced that NPC had leased uninhabited islands without bid to various contractors under conditions such as establishing sewerage systems in islands. Subsequently, the current government has amended the Tourism Act to authorise the government to lease islands without bid on condition that the contractors settle the full payments for the islands.
The Audit Report revealed that, up until NPC closed down, the council had evaluated 72 of the 660 proposals it received. However, the report noted that NPC had also signed CSR agreements with 11 proposals, but the proposals had not been approved under standard evaluation measures nor had NPC conducted a due diligence into the financial and technical capabilities of the proposers.
Furthermore, the report stated that NPC had not revealed any information as to which islands would be leased during the council’s dealings with proposers. NPC had also decided to impose an acquisition cost on the islands instead of the CSR model in 2013.
The report, signed by Auditor General Hassan Ziyath, called on the government to be unbiased and transparent in leasing islands, land plots and lagoons to private contractors for development projects. The Auditor General also stressed that all information on islands and lagoons to be leased, including a deadline for proposal submissions, must be announced before the government can proceed with transactions.