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State utility defends staff dismissals

Fenaka Corporation hired 170 employees before September’s election.



Fenaka Corporation defended Tuesday the dismissal of 53 staff since the change of management after the new administration took office in November.

Senior officials of the state-owned utility company were summoned to parliament’s government oversight committee over allegations of politically-motivated dismissals raised by opposition lawmakers.

Denying claims of unlawful termination, Fenaka managing director Ahmed Saeed told MPs that 11 employees were sacked over allegations of graft and embezzlement and 39 employees were sacked after prior warnings over absenteeism and other problems.

“We have records of the action taken. We have all the information. Nothing was kept secret,” he said.

Some 14 out of 84 employees at defunct regional offices were also let go with compensation. Dissolving the regional offices saves Fenaka MVR14 million (US$908,000) a year, he added.

Cases of wrongdoing by the sacked staff were investigated internally and reported to police and the anti-corruption watchdog, deputy managing director Ibrahim Waheed noted.

These included the theft of MVR380,000 (US$24,600) from a safe, the loss of 100,000 litres of oil sent to an island powerhouse, and alleged tampering with electricity bills.

The new managing director also informed lawmakers about the company’s debts. By late 2018, Fenaka owed MVR160 million to the state-owned Fuel Supply Maldives, which has since been settled, and MVR40 million to private businesses, of which 60 percent has been paid, he noted.

Fenaka had hired 170 new employees in the three months before the September 23 presidential election, Saeed revealed in response to a question from MP Rozaina Adam from the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party.

He also alleged that 82 staff were previously sacked for political reasons. The previous government had faced persistent accusations of hiring ruling party members to state-owned companies and discriminating against opposition supporters.

During the presidential election campaign, there were almost daily media reports of action against civil servants or staff at government companies who attended campaign events or welcomed the opposition candidate on island visits.

Several employees of Fenaka – which provides electricity to more than 150 out of the country’s 187 inhabited islands – were transferred away from their home islands.

State-owned enterprises were also alleged to have diverted funds for former president Abdulla Yameen’s re-election campaign.

Last October, a performance audit of Fenaka exposed mismanagement, inefficiency and questionable hiring practices.

Some 105 staff were hired without vacancy announcements between May 2014 and March 2015, the audit found. Out of these, more than half were members of one unnamed political party.

Fenaka was also mired in a corruption scandal in 2016. The former managing director resigned after it emerged that Fenaka was owed US$1.1 million from a speedboat company that was paid MVR17.8 million to buy dollars.

Aside from the foreign exchange scam, a previous audit uncovered corrupt fuel supply and procurement deals that cost millions in losses.