The anti-corruption watchdog has launched a probe after an anonymised list of 661 flat winners caused an uproar from unsuccessful applicants of the government housing programme.
Complaints were lodged last week over the lack of transparency and the housing ministry’s failure to explain how points were awarded, Anti-Corruption Commission officials told the press.
About 15,000 people applied for the housing scheme in late 2014 under two categories for residents of Malé. The deadline for submitting complaints to the housing ministry expires Sunday.
In the face of criticism and allegations of corrupt dealings after the list was made public last Monday, Housing Minister Dr Mohamed Muiz declared on Twitter that “only form numbers were included to protect the rights of those who won flats and those who didn’t as well.”
The housing minister previously assured that the flats would be awarded to the most deserving applicants after conducting home inspection visits.
Citing a typo that led to one form number appearing twice, the housing ministry also amended the list a day after it was published in the government gazette. But questions continued to be raised as several applicants reportedly missed out despite scoring 90 points while others with lower marks made the list.
A post from an applicant who scored 100 points but was excluded has been widely shared on social media.
The opposition meanwhile cried foul and called on the government to disclose details of the flat winners as well as the points awarded to all applicants.
The winners of the flats built in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island under development near Malé, are the first chosen by the current administration.
According to its homeownership or ‘Gedhoruverikan’ programme unveiled in February 2014, applications would be evaluated based on the period of residence in Malé and other measures of their living situation, including the family’s income and the number of children.
The government had pledged to build 1,100 flats in Hulhumalé but the number was later reduced to 661 without explanation.
Earlier this month, winners of flats under the previous government’s Veshi Fahi Malé social housing programme were told by the state-owned Housing Development Corporation to secure loans before a deadline of October 15, prompting some to express discontent with what they called “a forced entry into a ruinous loan scheme”.
The announcement came after complaints about delays in introducing a new affordable housing loan scheme devised by the central bank to help make payments for flats built in Malé by a subsidiary of India’s Tata Group.
In late August, the central bank enacted regulations mandating banks and financial institutions to join its new loan scheme and allocate at least 10 percent of income for low-interest housing loans. The down payment can be guaranteed either through the Maldives Retirement Pension Scheme or a special fund set up by the Maldives Monetary Authority.
According to the 2014 census, 39 percent of the Maldives’ 341,256 population resides in the 2.2 square mile island of Male. In the past few decades, thousands of people from the atolls have migrated to the capital in search of jobs, better education and healthcare, making Malé one of the world’s most densely populated cities with thousands of people crammed into small apartments for exorbitant rents.