The Maldives government lied about a US$40 million concessional loan from the OPEC Fund for International Development, the Maldives Independent has found, after three ministries broke the law over Right to Information requests.
Less than a week after Maldives Independent reported the RTI breaches, the finance ministry responded by email, confirming there was no agreement for the US$40 million OFID loan announced by the government.
“As the loan mentioned in the [RTI] form is not a signed loan and as this is a pipeline project, we inform that the information can only be shared when a loan agreement is signed. When the project is signed, we will update the ministry website accordingly,” reads the brief reply.
Both the housing and environment ministries previously claimed the money was provided by OFID for major infrastructure projects, including an airport in Faafu Nilandhoo island.
On July 16, hours after the European Union said it was considering sanctions over human rights abuses, two ministers said the country was getting the loan for harbour construction, airport building and setting up sewage systems.
But there was no record of a new US$40 million loan from OFID, which did not confirm or deny if this funding existed.
The Maldives Independent contacted the housing ministry, environment ministry and finance ministry with questions about the loan, but no answers were forthcoming.
RTI requests were filed with these ministries to ask when the loan was approved, when it was granted, why there was nothing about the loan on the OFID website, why OFID did not deny or confirm the loan’s existence, if the loan exists or the ministers lied, and the start and finish date for the projects to be funded by this loan.
But all three ministers breached the Right to Information Act, with the housing ministry and finance ministry not responding within the 21 day deadline while the environment ministry’s response was not in line with the law.
OFID has a US$159.6 million project portfolio in the Maldives.
There are 15 projects listed and four are ongoing: two are related to sanitation, one to regional hospital development and the fourth to the development of the Maldives’ main international airport.
The water and sanitation projects began in March 2013 and December 2014, with combined funding of more than US$73 million. The ministers said the money would be used to fund harbour construction projects but no such OFID-backed projects are ongoing.