The unprecedented disclosure of the president and his cabinet’s personal finances has been criticised as “incomplete” by anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives.
Disclosing the assets of all political appointees and their spouses within the first week after President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih took office was part of an ambitious 100-day action plan.
The financial statements of the president, vice president and ministers were published close to midnight on Thursday after the government promised the overdue asset declaration before the end of last week.
It is unclear whether the assets of spouses would be made public as pledged.
“We have to ensure that the declarations are factual,” Aiman Rasheed, communications director of Transparency Maldives, told the media after the disclosure. “The verification of the information in the statements should be done by a state institution. It can be the Auditor General’s office.”
Ibrahim Hood, the president’s spokesman, told Mihaaru there were challenges for the asset disclosure as it was the first time. Mistakes will be corrected and the system will be improved over time, he said.
“The declaration is part of President Solih’s pledge to root out corruption and usher in an era of good governance,” the president’s office said, pledging to to publish annually revised financials statements of “all senior political appointees at all ministries, state institutions, and state companies” in the coming days.
“The administration is collaborating closely with the respective institutions and NGOs in fulfilling this important pledge and fighting against corruption.”
The statements published Thursday were divided into three sections: assets, debt and income over the past six months.
Seven ministers declared no assets and the only assets owned by three ministers were motorcycles.
Among the seven who claimed not to own any assets, Infrastructure Minister Mohamed Aslam declared an MVR3.1 million (US$201,000) profit from his partnership business ventures. But no business interests were declared as assets.
Health Minister Abdulla Ameen – who has the biggest debt – declared a housing facility loan of MVR5.5 million, but did not have any real estate property to show for it.
Vice President Faisal Naseem, who owns the most assets, reported an income of MVR1.7 million as “salary and others” without detailing the sources.
Youth Minister Ahmed Mahloof reported MVR75,000 as “other” income, but did not report the source.
Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail declared consultancy fees of MVR396,508 as income but did not report the source. He also declared shares or ownership of five companies and the ownership of a boat without any monetary valuation.
Defence Minister Mariya Ahmed Didi also declared controlling shares in a company and four properties without any monetary valuations for the assets.
Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid reported “business profits” of MVR2.25 million but did not declare ownership or partnership in any company. The former speaker of parliament also reported ownership of a property in Britain only naming it as “56 Park Road/Britain.”
Home Minister Sheikh Imran Abdulla declared an MVR2.5 million apartment in a luxury real-estate development in Hulhumalé, drawing questions about how he could afford the high-end property.
According to Sheikh Mohamed Iyaz, Imran’s colleague in the Adhaalath Party, it was brought by Imran’s father-in-law.
It is unclear why the apartment was listed among Imran’s assets.
Heritage Minister Yumna Maumoon declared two companies as assets but did not declare any profits over the last six months.
Higher Education Minister Dr Ibrahim Hassan declared dividends from Dhiraagu, Bank of Maldives and State Trading Organisation but did not declare as assets shares for any of the companies.
Housing Minister Aminath Athifa declared an income of MVR90,000 as a living allowance without reporting the source.
The constitution requires the president, ministers and lawmakers to annually submit to the Auditor General “a statement of all property and monies owned by him, business interests and all assets and liabilities.”
Despite the constitutional requirement, neither former presidents nor the majority of lawmakers made information about their personal finances available to the public.
In 2017, a report by Transparency Maldives identified the weaknesses of current asset declaration procedures, which it warned “increases the risk of corrupt officials using the names of their family and relatives to hide their assets, which makes cases of illicit enrichment and conflicts of interest invisible and harder to detect.”
It also highlighted the importance of an external agency to conduct a verification process.