Watchdog rules out corruption in sale of luxury flats to state officials

Watchdog rules out corruption in sale of luxury flats to state officials
January 03 15:10 2016

The anti-corruption watchdog has ruled out corruption in the sale of luxury flats to Supreme Court justices and the heads of independent institutions.

Following an investigation, the Anti-Corruption Commission said in a statement on Thursday that the Rehendhi flats were sold in accordance with procedures and criteria set by the president’s office.

“It must be noted that the government provided the opportunity to buy the flats for MVR1.6 million (US$103,761), when the government paid over MVR938,000 (US$60,830),” the ACC explained, stressing that the flats were sold for a profit of MVR600,000 (US$38,910).

In line with the criteria, the ACC also noted that none of the buyers owned land in the capital. The commission suggested that the corruption allegations stemmed from the government’s failure to publicise details of the procedure and criteria for awarding the flats.

The market price for a Rehendhi apartment is reportedly MVR2 million.

ACC President Hassan Luthfy was among the state officials awarded an apartment. In addition to the five Supreme Court justices, flats were also allotted to Criminal Court Judge Abdul Bari Yoosuf, former Prosecutor General Muhthaz Muhsin, Commissioner General of Taxation Yazeed Mohamed and Information Commissioner Abdul Azeez Jamal Abu-Bakr.

Under an agreement with the contractor FW Construction, 10 flats in the newly-built Rehendi Residency were reserved and handed over to the government in early 2015.

In April, anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives urged the heads of independent institutions to refrain from accepting “arbitrary gratuities” from the government.

“The offering of arbitrary privileges to public officials holding high-ranking positions and the acceptance of such privileges will undermine public trust in these institutions,” the NGO said.

While the state can provide privileges to state officials “based on need and limited to the duration of employment of individuals”, TM noted at the time that the flats are “permanently contracted by the executive to public officials holding time-bound positions of the state”.

“The offering of arbitrary privileges to public officials holding high-ranking positions and the acceptance of such privileges will undermine public trust in these institutions,” the NGO warned.

“TM also notes that upholding integrity in the performance of high-ranking public posts is an integral and core mandate of such positions, and should not be incentivised through handouts of property or other forms of personal enrichment.”

The government had, however, defended the decision to award the flats. Then-Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb told the press at the time that the apartments were awarded to “ensure the integrity of independent institutions”.

“The flats were not handed out. The recipients have to pay for them. This will result in ensured integrity of independent institutions and, moreover, it will strengthen the state,” he said.