The Anti-Corruption Commission has told the Housing Ministry to temporarily halt the outgoing administration’s flagship Hiyaa housing scheme.
The watchdog is investigating complaints that flat award documents have been handed out before the application deadline of September 30, local media reported.
The ACC intervention comes as people protested outside the Housing Ministry office Monday morning after it stopped accepting applications from people who were issued tokens.
Hundreds queued up to submit forms on Sunday as the deadline loomed. The ministry accepted applications until early Monday morning, according to reports. Some people stayed up and waited in the queue all night.
But the next morning, the ministry announced it has stopped accepting forms, prompting outrage from those who were still waiting to submit forms. Police officers were called in to remove protesters from the reception area.
Ahmed Rasheed, a man who has lived in the capital for 25 years, told Mihaaru he took a token number at 9:47am on Sunday. He stayed awake Sunday night only to be told that the ministry stopped accepting forms at 5:30am on Monday.
Around 200 people waited outside the ministry Sunday afternoon.
Hawwa Rasheeda, 57, told the Maldives Independent: “I live with five children, I want to give them a home. I didn’t have the time to come here earlier, but I am here today. I hope whatever government is there will prioritise housing, and not make it more difficult for us.”
The Hiyaa project was launched by President Abdulla Yameen in November last year with state-owned enterprises to finance the construction of more than 17,000 flats in Hulhumalé, a reclaimed island suburb of the congested capital.
The application deadline was previously extended from August 31 to the end of September.
According to the housing ministry, construction of 7,000 flats is underway and expected to be complete in April.
Housing is a hot-button issue in the Maldives, where 39 percent of the country’s 341,256 population lives on the 2.2 square mile island of Malé.
Ahead of the presidential election on September 23, the government promised flats for all adult Maldivians who apply under the ‘Hiyaa Accomplished’ project, which was announced in July to develop “a second city” near the capital.
More than 18,000 forms were submitted before the election.
It is unclear if the project will continue under the new government, which has also promised flats and low-interest housing loans.
Applications for social housing will be reopened after president-elect Ibrahim Mohamed Solih takes office on November 17, his spokeswoman told the press.
In the interim, the ACC has also instructed the privatisation board to stop state-owned companies from hiring new staff, approving pay hikes and giving out promotions, ACC president Hassan Luthfy told Raajje TV.
Complaints were lodged about pay raises for staff at the state utility Fenaka Corporation, hiring by the Maldives Ports Limited, and promotions at the Kooddoo Fisheries Complex.
On Sunday, the Civil Service Commission announced a temporary halt on hiring new staff in order to prepare for possible changes by the new administration to the mandate of government offices.