Anti-corruption NGO Transparency Maldives has called on the government to strengthen its asset declaration process after the unprecedented disclosure of the president and cabinet’s personal finances.
The financial statements of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Vice President Faisal Naseem and ministers were published close to midnight Thursday after the government promised the overdue asset declaration before the end of last week.
Disclosing the assets of all political appointees and their spouses within the first week after Solih took office was a missed target of an ambitious 100-day action plan.
In a statement Sunday, the local chapter of Transparency International welcomed the asset disclosure as “an important first step in addressing grand corruption within the state.”
TM made several recommendations as “prerequisites to establishing a robust asset declaration regime,” including verification of the statements by an independent state body.
There should be more detailed information about domestic and internationally-held wealth, assets and liabilities, including those of spouses and children, the NGO said.
Other recommendations included requiring “politically exposed individuals” such as judges, lawmakers and managers of state-owned enterprises to declare their assets and establishing a legal framework to facilitate a robust asset declaration regime, which should “sanction politically exposed individuals for non-compliance, including fining, firing and prosecution.”
TM’s communications manager Aiman Rasheed told the Maldives Independent that some comments attributed to the organisation in the wake of the asset disclosure, which was criticised as incomplete, were inaccurate.
“The reporting of TM’s comments on the asset declaration by a number of local media did not accurately reflect the comments made by Transparency Maldives,” he said.
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, TM 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.