The anti-graft watchdog has launched an investigation into the education ministry’s awarding of a contract to manage a school to a company partly owned by the wives of two prominent judges.
A group of parents of students at the Lale Youth International School in Malé’s suburb Hulhumalé have alleged corruption in the education ministry’s choice of a new management company.
Qualitat education, partly owned by the wives of two high court judges, won the contract to manage Lale School, also known as Fareediyya School, when the government decided not to renew a management contract with the company that had run the school since 2009.
Qualitat was reportedly set to sign the contract on Tuesday, but the Anti Corruption Commission has put a halt to the process pending the outcome of the investigation.
Hassan Luthfy, the ACC president, said: “First the parents had complained that the company that won the bid, Qualitate Education, was not a company that was registered. But we checked and found that the company was in fact registered.
“But we are still investigating to see if there are any issues with the bidding process.”
The education ministry has declined to comment.
Qualitat, owned by four people, was registered on July 5, two months before the education ministry opened up a bid for the management of the school.
Ganiya Abdul Ghafoor, the wife of High Court Chief Judge Abdulla Didi, and Minnath Naseer, the wife of Judge Shujau Usmaan are listed among the four shareholders of the company, according to documents obtained by the Maldives Independent.
The other shareholders are Moosa Rasheed, the deputy headmaster of Lale, and his brother Mohamed Rasheed, a mathematics teacher at Ahmadiyya School in Malé.
Qualitat, in a message sent to parents, said the company plans to run the school in association with Gateway Schools, a British firm that is managing schools in the United Kingdom, India, Sri Lanka and Oman.
The group of parents had voiced concern over the ministry’s decision to cancel the contract with the previous management company, Biz Atoll, submitting a petition asking the government to extend the contract.
But Luthfy, the ACC chair, said the company had failed to respect the terms of its agreement. It was required to build a new school in Hulhumalé, but has failed to do so despite the government extending its contract twice.
Biz Atoll was not available for comment at the time of going to press.
In June 2010, the human rights watchdog had recommended that the government terminate the contract with Biz Atoll over allegations of physical and psychological abuse. In August that year, the criminal court found its former headmaster, Turkish national Serkan Akar, guilty of assaulting children and sentenced him to pay a Rf200 (US$14) fine.