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On 17th November 2018 President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih began his term with promises of zero tolerance to corruption, transparency, good governance and pledged to empower the local councils. In an act of empowering the local councils, Male’ City hall was granted full guardianship of the capital city and its “Greater Male’ City Area”. This marked the beginning of the development of the eastern waterfront park commonly known as Adi park.

Initially hailed as a sign of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s green development, the park has since become a symbol of the current administration’s lackluster development efforts and its rampant corruption. We here at MNN have compiled the events that led to the Adi Park corruption case involving over an alleged MVR 40,000,000.00.

Following months of attempted development by the Male’ City Council, on 16 September 2019 Mayor Shifa receives an alleged letter from former President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem (Kerafa Naseem). The letter stated that President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih had allegedly requested to finish the development of Adi Park by 11th November 2019. The letter pictured below noticeably lacked the President’s Office letter head, government motto and a letter identification number. Unofficial letters such as the one below was frequently used by Mayor Shifa to establish her authority amongst government bodies and to allegedly embezzle state funds.

This letter allegedly by Minister Ahmed Naseem was used to order the procurement of MVR 2,197,461.92 worth project.

On 7th October 2019, Deputy Mayor Shamau sends a letter (425-A2/13/2019/93) to the Ministry of Finance and Treasury requesting advice on handing out the unfinished development projects at Adi park to a single contractor on Single Source Procurement basis, citing the urgency of the project with President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem’s “letter” attached. However, Ministry of Finance and Treasury replied back to Mayor Shifa on 08th October 2019 advising the Mayor that since the project in question was valued below MVR2.5 million, the project should be handled by the bid committee of the Male’ City Council.

On 13th October 2019 Mayor Shifa sends Memo number (MEMO)425-CB/425/2019/1731 to the procurement section, illegally requesting to proceed with the project as a single source procurement. However, by this point both Mayor Shifa and former President’s Office Minister and current Health Minister Ahmed Naseem were allegedly already in talks with contractors. Against state financial regulations, then President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem had already sent out an invitation for proposals to selected contractors. The three firms submitted their proposals of which the lowest proposal with the shortest project duration was submitted by Amin Construction. On 06th October 2019, local construction company Amin Construction submitted their proposal to then President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem with the total project valued at MVR 2,197,461.92.

Letter dated 06th October 2019 by Amin Construction sent to Minister Ahmed Naseem.

On 13th October 2019 Director of Procurement at Male’ City Council, Usamath Umar sends memo number (MEMO)425-A2/425/2019/1737 to the Finance Section, inquiring whether the Male’ City Council had enough budget to complete the project. On 14th October Senior Accounts Officer Abdulla Rameez replies back to Director Usamath Umar with memo number (MEMO)425-C3/425/2019/1747 that under budget code “226008-other infrastructure repair”  a total of MVR 3,503,986.00 remained of which MVR 1,503,986.00 was designated to be used for Adi park development while the remaining MVR 2,000,000.00 was to be used for development of other parks within Male’ city area. This would mean that the City Council was MVR 693,475.92 short of the amount proposed by the smallest bidder, Amin Construction.

Memo by the Male’ City Council finance section which shows that the unfinished project value was above the available budget.

On 13th October 2019 Mayor Shifa sends memo number (MEMO)425-CB/425/2019/1741 to the procurement section stating that the President’s Office had requested to finish the development of Adi Park before 11 November 2019 (referring to the former President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem’s “letter”). The memo also requests the procurement section to award the project to a contractor under a Single Source Procurement process.

In this memo, Mayor Shifa also falsely informs the procurement section that the budget for the project had been secured, contradicting the memo (MEMO)425-C3/425/2019/1747 by the finance  section.

By this point, staff within the Male’ City Council hall were concerned with the irregularities being ordered by Mayor Shifa in collaboration with former President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem. On 14th October 2019 the Bid committee of Male’ City Council requests Legal Officer Naseer Gasim to provide counsel on the legality of handing out the project on Single Source Procurement basis.

Male’ City Council Bid Committee desperately tried to adhere to the laws, which did not sit well with Mayor Shifa and Minister Naseem.

 On 15th October 2019 the Male’ City Council  Bid Committee sends memo number (MEMO)425-A2/425/2019/1777 to Mayor Shifa. In the memo the bid committee cites State Financial Act 2017 Article 10.27 (H) which states that “A government project may only be awarded to a contractor without a bid only if the contractor is either a government majority company, a company listed on Maldives stock exchange with government shares or a national organization approved by the government. However, the project may only be awarded after the details of the project are submitted to the National Tender Board and the Finance Minister’s written approval is received.”. The bid committee advised Mayor Shifa to proceed with the project in line with state financial act.

 

 

Male’ City Council Bid Committee advices Mayor Shifa to proceed with the projects according to the law.

Since the Bid Committee’s advice meant that Mayor Shifa would not be able to hand out the project on single source procurement basis, she opts to use a more nefarious tactic to get it done regardless of the legality. On the morning of 20th October 2019, Director of Procurement Usamath Umar casually leaves with the box folder containing all the bid committee documents on the Adi Park project and hands it over to Mayor Shifa. Upon returning it, bid committee member, Procurement Officer Zubaidha Mohamed notices that memo number (MEMO)425-A2/425/2019/1777 along with Finance Ministry letter number 13-K/425/2019/82 advising the City Council to follow the Bid Committee’s advice along with the attached alleged “letter” by former President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem was missing from the box folder. An inquiry was held by the bid committee of Male’ City Council. Upon inquiry by bid committee, Director of Procurement Usamath Umar stated that the missing documents were with mayor Shifa. The stolen documents are yet to be recovered.

Male’ City Council Bid Committee Inquiry.

According to the documents from the City Council, it was determined that Mayor Shifa seized (MEMO)425-A2/425/2019/1777 along with Finance Ministry letter number 13-K/425/2019/82 and the attached alleged “letter” by President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem in a bid to erase proof of the bid committee advising her against Single Source Procurement. Mayor Shifa then proceeded to furtively award the project illegally, on Single Source Procurement basis.

In order to justify her actions, Mayor Shifa alleged that if the Park were to open with unfinished areas, it would pose a hazard to the public. Moreover, several irregularities were noticed in the procurement order  by Mayor Shifa and Male’ City Council Director of Procurement Usamath Umar.

Irregularities were noted in the procurement order.

It is noted that in the procurement order, the numerical and alphabetical value stated for the total budget does not match. The numerical value stated is MVR1,000,000.00 while the alphabetical value states MVR Ten million. Furthermore, the remaining budget for the project is stated as MVR 4,000,000.00. This contradicts the memo (MEMO)425-C3/425/2019/1747 which states that the remaining funds for the project was only MVR 1,503,986.00.

On 21st October 2019, Mayor Shifa sends memo number (MEMO)425-CB/425/2019/1839 to the bid committee, requesting to facilitate the procurement of the project. The project however, in reality had already been illegally awarded to Amin Construction Pvt Ltd and was nearing its completion. Mayor Shifa desperately needed the bid committee to “officially” award the project to Amin Construction so that she could secure the remaining MVR 693,475.92 from an unsanctioned supplementary budget.

After realizing what had conspired, the bid committee sent memo (MEMO)425-CB/425/2019/1868 to Mayor Shifa advising her that it is against Article 99 of the Decentralization act to conduct any work outside of the sanctioned budget without the council passing a supplementary budget. Furthermore, they advised her that it is against Article 87 of the Decentralization Act to award the project on single source procurement.

However, by then, before the project had even been opened for the bidding process or even awarded, Mayor Shifa in collaboration with the former President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem, had “awarded” the project to Amin Construction Pvt Ltd and the whole construction project had almost been finished by as seen in the below picture dated 26th October 2019.

The project had been illegally awarded before even a procurement order had been given.

The procurement of the project to construct the two restrooms at the park shows the clear violations of Article 49,87,99, 112 of the Decentralization Act which legalizes and empowers the city council.

The multiple violations of laws to embezzle MVR 2,197,461.92 to construct just two restrooms is testament of the impunity with which Mayor Shifa, Minister Ahmed Naseem and their allies conduct themselves in. Furthermore this is just the tip of the iceberg as the conspiracy to embezzle state funds only deepens at this point with the procurement of palm trees and other greenery for the park. Our sources indicate that it was decided from within the President’s Office that the palm trees and the greenery required for the park was to be procured from Sri Lanka. However, since Male’ City council does not have the legal mandate to procure the greenery from abroad, the palm trees and the greenery were procured and billed through the State Trading Organization with Housing Ministry acting as its consultant in the procurement.

Allegedly under former President’s Office Minister Ahmed Naseem’s direct order, Housing Ministry staff was ordered to reside Minister Ahmed Naseem’s very own residence in Sri Lanka on their trip to procure the plants. During this trip they were introduced to an old associate of Minister Ahmed Naseem known as Mr. Trevor Nugawela, a former small time rugby player who now provides sports ground consultancy in Sri Lanka.

Mr.Trevor Nugewala, an old associate of Minister Ahmed Naseem.

Under his order,  STO procured all plants and greenery needed for the park on behalf of Male’ City Council from Mr. Trevor Nugewala at the Pokunumulla Gardens located in Pannipitiya Sri Lanka.

Mr.Trevor Nugewala provided consultancy to the procurement team dispatched by Housing Ministry.

Suspicions rose about the procurement and the exact nature of the consultancy provided by Mr. Trevor Nugawela after the palm trees bought by the Male’ City council died within days of implantation. It was noted that the City Council’s local consultant on the subject had repeatedly advised against procuring and planting the palm trees, citing that the species being procured was not suitable for the high saline environment of the park.

However, Mayor Shifa chose to repeatedly ignore the consultant’s professional advice and gave the procurement order again. After each shipment of palm trees died, another shipment was billed to STO and imported. This would repeat for three more times incurring massive bills for STO before another more saline friendly species was chosen.

We here at MNN noticed that the procurement of the palm trees and the greenery for the park from a relatively unknown source in Sri Lanka was suspicious and looked deeper into the matter. Our sources in Sri Lanka approached the proprietor of the Pokunumulla Gardens who unknowingly made the startling revelation that he was a business partner of Fazna Ahmed, the First Lady of the Republic of Maldives.

 

The proprietor revealed that his business partner is First Lady Fazna Ahmed.

The proprietor also stated that he was promised spacious lands plots in Gulhifalhu to operate Warehouses for the Gulhifalhu port planned by the current administration, which according to the proprietor who cited First lady Fazna Ahmed stated that the port would be operated by India’s Gangavaram Port Limited.

Flaunting his wealth and partnership with First Lady Fazna Ahmed, the proprietor also revealed that the First Lady had recently transferred a significant amount of assets to offshore accounts in Mauritius to avoid taxes in the Maldives and that she operates business at Port Louis, Mauritius.

We here at MNN have also received information that the prices of the palm trees and greenery bought allegedly from First Lady Fazna Ahmed’s business in Sri Lana was billed more than twice the market rates.

Moreover, based on the documentations available, the Adi Park Project has incurred the various state bodies with a total bill of over MVR 40,000,000.00 of which only a very minor amount accounts for the work conducted in the park.

Moreover, according to our sources the Prosecutor General’s refusal to press charges against Mayor Shifa allegedly lies with her key role in enabling and embezzling state funds for top executives including First Lady Fazna Ahmed, through several projects initiated by the Male’ City Council. The sudden decision by ruling party MDP’s Parliamentary Group to remove the sitting members of the Anti-Corruption Commission also lies with the commission’s decision to send Mayor Shifa’s corruption case to the Prosecutor General’s Office, which if a proper investigation were to be conducted, could indict the First Lady of Maldives Fazna Ahmed along with the top officials of the current administration.

We have also uncovered startling information on corruption involving a mega project initiated by STELCO Limited with the newly appointed Health Minister Ahmed Naseem and Speaker of the Parliament Mohamed Nasheed playing a key role. MNN will investigate and blow the whistle on this matter in the future.

Note of the Editorial Board: In consultation with the legal representation of the above-mentioned individuals, clarifications have been made. The amended article can be found HERE.

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