In the ongoing saga of the corruption charges against Auditor General Maakun Ibrahim Naeem, more evidence came to light last week of Maakun Naeem’s wiful misuse of Audit Office funds. Last week Haveeru Daily published scanned copies of Audit Office documents that had been later modified to try and cover up Maakun Naeem’s criminal activities.
The scanned copies published by Haveeru showed that documents had been forged to try and show that the Auditor General had repaid in a very short time Audit Office funds he had used for a private launch trip in Baa Atoll. However, as was pointed out by Haveeru, the date of the forged document was even prior to the date of the bill for the service. Further, the repayment made by the Auditor General was put into the Audit Office Bank of Maldives account in January 2009, three months after the date of the forged document.
The documents clearly show that, in addition to using Audit Office funds for private use, Maakun Naeem had ordered his staff to cover up his crime by forging Audit Office documents. The staff in question declined to comment, saying that they could only respond if permitted by Maakun Naeem. Maakun Naeem himself declined to comment to Haveeru, saying that he did not give press interviews.
Auditor General Maakun Naeem, President Nasheed’s chum long term ally hails from the infamous Maakun family of MDP activists. Street gangs run by Maakun Naeem’s cousin Falah are notorious for their attacks against dissenters to MDP. Maakun Naeem is also reported to have been involved in his cousin Maakun Sattar’s siphoning off of millions from the Fisheries project Implementation Department (STO) in the early 1990s. Maakun Naeem was one of the key administrative staff of the official commission investigating his cousin’s criminal activities and had access to all evidence of the crimes.
This evidence of forgery and fraud follows hard on the heels of the news that the evidence of personal use of Audit Office funds by Auditor General Maakun Ibrahim Naeem had been stolen from the offices of the Maldives Anti-Corruption Commission. The stolen documents included receipts of monies Auditor General Maakun Naeem had used illegally from the Audit Office. They also included receipts of monies by the Audit Office when Maakun Naeem had tried to cover up the whole issue by paying back the illegal money. The incriminating documents were in relation to a private trip that Maakun Naeem had taken to Baa Atoll. The theft was carried out by thieves who broke into the offices of the Anti Corruption Commission on May 6th and ransacked the place, turning shelves, filing cabinets and desk drawers upside down.
This theft was on the same day that the ACC Chief had summoned Maakun Naeem in to question him about the illegal use of Audit Office funds. The questioning was carried out by the ACC Chief and two of his administrative assistants. No other ACC member was told of the investigation. All the documentary proof was taken out of files by the ACC Chief and shown to the Auditor General Maakun Naeem.
With the evidence in front of him, Maakun Naeem had given a statement that he was indeed culpable of the crime, and had requested the ACC Chief to overlook the crime since he had paid back the monies. The ACC Chief had reportedly agreed that since the Auditor general had paid back the monies he used illegally, the investigation could be shelved. However, other Commission members had intervened to stop this illegal cover-up of Maakun Naeem’s fraud and insisted upon a full investigation as in all such cases.
In addition to Maakun Naeem’s use of Audit Office funds to pay his bills for private trips, there also remains the case of Maakun Naeem using the Audit Office credit card for private expenses overseas. It is not known how far ACC has carried out this latter investigation.
Maakun Naeem is most widely known amongst the Maldivian population for his misuse of his office to support President Nasheed’s hate and persecution campaign against key opposition leaders. Although head of an office which is constitutionally required to be independent, from the time that Maakun Naeem took office, he has actively worked to create reports that could be used by President Nasheed’s Witch Hunt Commission. However, in the light of the above evidence of forgery, fraud and personal use of public funds by Maakun Naeem, speculation in the public is that it’s highly unlikely that all the evidence purported to support his audit reports are actually true.
The AGO is supposed to be an independent state organization responsible for carrying out audits of government organizations, public companies and other bodies entrusted with government revenues and assets. This is to make the Government arms accountable for its financial management and ensures public money is spent beneficially for the nation. However, very few Maldivians believe the truthfulness of Maakun Naeem’s reports. The main reason is the extreme partiality towards MDP shown in these reports.
A further reason is the lack of clear evidence in the reports. In addition, a close look at the so-called evidence in some of these reports that were orchestrated with much hype and hate shows that most of the reported issues are actually within the law. A very good example would be the much publicized audit of Presidential Palace Theemuge expenses under former President Gayoom.
In addition to the Theemuge report, Maakun Naeem’s reports on The President’s Office and the Bank of Maldives have been shown to be factually incorrect.
In the Theemuge report, Maakun Naeem very neatly gives President Nasheed’s Witch Hunt Commission its excuse for hunting Gayoom by strongly recommending that the former president be prosecuted for crimes alleged in his report. However, even though Theemuge expenses can certainly be said to be excessive, the fact of the matter is that these expenses were within an annual budget approved by the parliament. Maakun Naeem could not find any extra-budgetary expenses. That makes these expenses within the legal framework of the time. In addition, the current law still allows the President or the Minister to decide who is eligible for Government aid. While there is a short guideline, the final decision can be made by the President. Therefore, even on this issue, the Gayoom expenditures are strictly within the bounds of the law.
The critical point to note is that there were no unaccounted funds. Maakun Naeem would not point out even one single instance where funds had been ‘lost’. That is, the Theemuge budgetary documents had been so well kept that they accounted for each and every laari spent. The money may have been spent excessively, but it was accounted for. And these documents showed that the expenditures were in accordance with the approved budget of the time.
A point to further note is that Maakun Naeem ends each chapter of each report with a recommendation to enact laws governing such expenses. This means that there are no such laws at the time, and hence no laws were violated.
Auditor General Maakun Naeem has shown an irrational keenness to audit past years, even as far back as the early 1990. However, again, his legal purview is from the date of the Audit Law (April 2007) and the day of his appointment, that is 16th January 2008. Maakun Naeem has no jurisdiction over government expenditures prior to 2007, yet almost all his time is spent hunting for victims in pre-2007 years. On the last note, it is interesting to note that while Maakun Naeem hunts in the past for victims in government offices and public companies, he has neatly avoided an audit of State Trading Organization (STO) past. Perhaps this is because he is protecting his cousin Abdul Sattar (Sato)’s crimes of making direct monetary gains by fraudulent means at STO and his misappropriate funds of STO.
The issued audit reports, while full of innuendoes, repeated calls for prosecution of individuals and dissolution of public companies, in actual fact contain very little hard evidence to support his allegations.
It is a matter of grave concern to the country that the independent office of the Auditor General are being used by an established fraud artist to assist in the persecution of political opponents of the current regime. Each report is written in such a manner to create the window of opportunity for President Nasheed and his police service to intimidate and persecute opposition members.