State-owned company accused of funding president’s campaign
An audit and corruption probe of the Housing Development Corporation are underway.
A state-owned corporation is under investigation by the anti-corruption watchdog and auditor general’s office.
The Housing Development Corporation – tasked with the urban development of Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island connected to the capital – is accused of funding President Abdulla Yameen’s failed re-election campaign, the Anti-Corruption Commission’s media official confirmed to the Maldives Independent.
Auditor General Hassan Ziyath has also ordered an audit of the HDC’s finances, newspaper Mihaaru reported.
According to confidential sources, an internal audit of the company has so far revealed MVR30 million (US$1.9 million) was illegally spent for the campaign.
“The [ruling Progressive Party of Maldives] office setup, phone lines, networks, SMS portals, computers and even books and pencils were purchased through the HDC budget,” a source was quoted as saying.
The company’s staff were heavily involved in campaign events. Some 150 new employees were kept on the HDC payroll but worked on the campaign, media reported.
Senior officials told Raajje TV that HDC also funded events organised by the first lady, including a circumcision camp.
Last week, a petition signed by 169 HDC employees was sent to the audit office and ACC with concerns over corruption and the financial health of the company.
It was signed by several senior staff including Chief Financial Officer Ali Shareef.
The petition warned that the company would face a loss of MVR 1.8 billion (US$116 million) if it goes ahead with the government’s plan to sell 400 plots from Hulhumalé well below the market price.
According to the housing minister, the cabinet’s economic council approved the sale to ease the HDC’s “cashflow problems.”
The plots are to be sold at a rate of MVR400 per square feet. In contrast, bidding for beachfront properties previously sold by the HDC started at MVR3,000 per square feet.
After overnight queues last week, the housing ministry handed over selecting buyers to the HDC, which remains undecided on the process.
With the ACC confirming that a probe is underway, reports have also emerged of alleged attempts to destroy paperwork or documentary evidence.
“While the company money has been misused, key evidence might be lost when documents are destroyed. They are trying to do it [Wednesday]. If it is a PPM campaign hall, HDC does not have to be involved,” an employee was quoted as saying by Channel News Maldives.
No one from the HDC was available for comment. The company has yet to deny any of the widely reported allegations.