A restaurant that catered the presidential banquet on Maldives’ Golden Jubilee of Independence has dismissed allegations of poor food quality and corruption in the use of funds.
President Abdulla Yameen hosted a dinner for some 800 guests, including foreign dignitaries and Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena at the Dharubaaruge on July 26. The catering contract was awarded without a bidding process to the recently opened restaurant Newport, owned by ruling Progressive Party of the Maldives (PPM) activists.
Several people who attended the banquet complained over the poor quality of food to Maldives Independent and other local media outlets. One diplomat said the food was “inauthentic and tasteless.”
“The quality of food, the presentation did not meet the grandness of the occasion. Some of the food ran out halfway through the banquet,” complained the diplomat who wished to remain anonymous.
Invitees were served two types of short eats as appetizers, three varieties of rice, four types of curry, two types of salad, and two types of desserts, the diplomat said.
The poor quality of food prompted some media outlets to allege corruption. Opposition aligned Raajje TV said the contract had been awarded for MVR 7 million (US$453,956), at the rate of MVR8000 (US$519) per head.
Dismissing allegations, a senior manager at Newport said the contract was awarded for a total of MVR3.8million (US$246,433), at US$250 per person.
“We prepared a local menu at the President’s office request. We actually operated at a loss. The dinner cost a half a million more than the price we asked for,” he said.
The restaurant hired 150 local waiters and 30 chefs, he said.
State Minister for Home Affairs Ahmed Saleem, who was also in charge of organizing activities for the Independence Day, said the dinner had been organized by the President’s Office. “We have no information of the banquet,” he said.
The President’s Office was not responding to calls at the time of going to press.
The Anti-Corruption Commission last month started investigating corruption in the use of the MVR150million (US$9.7million) budget for Independence Day, after receiving complaints that the Home Ministry was awarding multi million rufiyaa projects without a bidding process.
The Home Ministry said it had obtained a special permit from the Finance Ministry to award projects without bidding due to a lack of time.