Saturday, October 25, 2008

Implications of Impeaching Auditor General

Majlis Members affiliated to Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) and People's Alliance (PA) on 22nd October filed a motion against Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem, accusing him of political partiality in publishing the President's Office Audit Report. As of now it is unclear whether this motion is tantamount to formal impeachment proceedings. That the first ever independent Auditor General of Maldives should face impeachment (if it comes to that) barely 10 months into office, raises eyebrows for several reasons.

First, impeachment of Auditor Generals and their removal from office are rare occurrences in established democracies. The point here is Auditor General's are not replaced with each change of government or shift in Parliamentary balance. Dismissal of the Maldives Auditor General under the current circumstances could establish a precedent that could undermine the independence of not just the Auditor General, but all the 7 independent institutions included in the Constitution – institutions whose independence and impartiality are essential to maintain accountability and checks and balances.

Second, even in cases where Auditor General's have been impeached in the recent past, the proceedings were prompted by well documented misconduct or incompetence. For example, when in December 2007, Southern Sudan Legislative Assembly (SSLA) passed a vote of no confidence in Auditor General Barnaba Majok Barnabas, it was prompted by proof of massive embezzling of public funds and failure to deliver service in auditing government accounts.

The procedure laid down in the Constitution of Maldives appears to be in line with the two points described above. While Article 218 gives power to the Majlis to dismiss the Auditor General, it also limits the grounds on which Majlis can do so. The Article reads:

"The Auditor General shall be removed from office only for the reasons specified in article (a) and in the manner specified in article (b):

(a) On the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence; and

(b) a finding to that effect by a committee of the People's Majlis, pursuant to article (a) and upon the approval of such finding by the People's Majlis by a majority of those present and voting, calling for the Auditor General's removal from office, the Auditor General shall be deemed removed from office."

Coming to the 3 reasons mentioned in (a), incapacity can certainly be ruled out because Naeem appears healthy and energetic. Incompetence can also be ruled out because of the following reasons:

Naeem has impressive academic qualifications and an impeccable international resume. In fact, when on 5 December 2007 the Majlis ratified his nomination, the decision was met with rare and near unanimous public acclaim. Soon after assuming office, Naeem managed to do the impossible by galvanizing a lackluster Audit Office into a vibrant professional team –a feat that raised Naeem's esteem in the public eye by a further few notches.

Thus, through elimination we can safely assume that the basis of the no-confidence motion is misconduct. The exact meaning of misconduct (which probably includes the concept of 'betrayal of public trust' or violation of the oath of office) is not defined in the constitution. The Drafting Committee of the Constitution put impeachment into the hands of the legislative branch and transformed it from a matter of legal definition to a matter of political judgment. Hence, the definition of 'impeachable misconduct' depends on what the majority of the Majlis considers it to be at a given moment in history. Let us then look at some of the issues now before the Majlis.

PA Majlis Member Ahmed Zubair and DRP Member Abdul Rasheed Nafiz have told the media some of the reasons for tabling the motion against Auditor General Naeem. They include:

  • Publishing President's Office Audit Report without following the procedures that require audit reports to be submitted to the Financial Committee of the Majlis before publishing.

  • The hurried timing of publishing of President's Office Audit Report within 36 hours of the October 8 Election, which raises questions on Naeem's professionalism.

  • Unacceptability of some of the findings included in the report.

The Auditor General's report sheds light on loans disbursed by the President's Office, expenses of President's local and international travel, Hill and Norlton project, Project Druid, and promotions given to government officials. The report says there were a number of discrepancies in these expenditures.

The unfolding drama brings to mind a feeling of déjà vu going back to the days of the Motorboat Uprising, the forgettable day in November 1934 when the first Constitution of the Maldives was torn away by a Palace inspired mob. Clearly in 1934 the Palace and the mob were not ready for a constitution. In 2008 are we ready for independent institutions?


Anonymous said...

Very good article.

This goes to show what DRP thinks of democratic values and norms. The countries first ever independent Auditor General, a guy with world class resume who's going at his job with utmost dedication and commitment is going to be impeached? This just cant be allowed. Maldivians, dont start by idle and allow this to happen!

See the precedence the govt is help establish. The Auditor General publishes report in state companies and the MD/CEO is coming out and sayin the report is a lie! WHAT?! Who on earth is an MD to reject the report of an Auditor General who's appointed with the authorization of the Majlis under the Maldivian Constitution!! This just makes my blood boil. This is an outright disgrace!

Maldivians, stand up for the Auditor General! Get a petition started! Call your majlis members! We CANT let this happen!

Anonymous said...

The customs have commented on their site about Customs audit report of Auditor general. I like to high light the lies and deception they have told in their comments to hurt the integrity of AG Naeem.
1- "Customs aamugavaidhu" has all the procedures of customs, thus no need to seek advices from all executive level.
2- Speed boat of sultans of the seas was investigated and concluded by investigation department that as internet price is known, additional duty should be taken and fined, and customs executives should be punished for their incompetency.
3- Customs declarations are like puzzles, all customers do say that, look at Japan or India customs as example for easy customs
4- There is flaw in risk management system as OICS can still assign officers, look into it, its a fact.
5- Ask Shafiu why fathih got such high rank even though incompetent for his current job, its only because he campaigns for DRP.

Anonymous said...

umm i think his name is ibrahim naeem

[Thanks for correction. Editor]

Farooq M. Hassan said...

An excellent eye opener. An SOS for those who love peace, who aspire justice and who long for a corruption free country. I too agree that the Auditor General must be defended at all costs. If we fail him we would be failing not only his office, but all the independent commissions established under the new constitution.

I simply could not help laughing, when of all people, Ahmed Zubair, who keeps jumping on and off the wagon, switching loyalty every now and then, and Abdul Rasheed Nafiz accuses the Auditor General for lacking professionalism! This could be the joke of the century.
Now let’s take a look at what others do, when they find senior public officials abuse their power, or state funds, or are found guilty of corruption.

First, according to local Chinese media, on Saturday, 18 October 2008, former Vice-Mayor of Beijing, Mr. Liu Zhihua was sentenced to death, after rejecting please by his Lawyers. Mr. Liu 59, was charged with taking bribes of about one million US Dollars, when he was Vice-Mayor of Beijing, and Director of the Management Committee of Zhongguancun Science Park from 1999 – 2006. According to the Hengshul Intermediate People’s Court in Province, Mr. Liu abused his power to secure project contracts, loans and promotions for others. Liu who was elected Vice-Mayor of Beijing in 1999, was sacked from the post of Beijing Vice-Mayor in June 2006, and expelled from the Chinese Communist Party six months later.

Second, on Saturday, 18 October 2008, the IMF said it was investigating whether its chief, former French Minister of Finance, Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, abused his power in an affair with a subordinate who has since left the global institution. The investigation was ordered by the head of IMF’s 24-member board. Contrary to what Maumoon and his cronies do, Mr. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, instead of criticizing the investigation, said that he would cooperate with the investigation. As you may recall, this investigation follows barely a year after former World Bank President Mr. Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign amid a staff uproar over a high-paying promotion he authorized for his companion who worked at the Bank.

Third, the international media reported on 21 October 2008, the ousting of the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Groupe Caisse d’Epargne – France’s third-biggest consumer banking network, Mr. Charles Milhaud, after it was found that the Bank suffered a trading loss of a staggering 807 million US Dollars. Mr. Milhaud was accused of “absence of responsibility”. Just compare this with our Auditor General’s report on STELCO.

Fourth, on 21 October 2008, Thailand’s Supreme Court sentenced former prime minister Mr. Thaksin Shinawatra to two years in prison, for violating a conflict-of-interest law, while he was in office. Now compare this with the enormous loans Maumoon has given to senior officers in his government.
The list is endless. I hope these few examples would help you to open up your eyes, and to act, and not to be among those who 'wait and watch'.

Finally, with all these reports out, I just keep wondering, where on earth is our Prosecutor General?

Anonymous said...

I just dont understand what helps auditing the Presidents concern.Its very one sided and purposeful exposure to damage his chance of winning.I wud have lauded Naeem had he been impartial at this exposure and I dont agree the problem is with one man called G******. This was brought on us by us.
Who will audit the AG?

Anonymous said...

Answer to Anonymous 9.15 pm's question, who will audit the auditor general's office.

Answer: Please read article 16 of Audit Qaanoon for details of how auditor general's office will be audited.

Anonymous said...

Maldives degenrating into abyss led by selfish people like Drs(who had been away most of their life for greener patures) and street fighters and corrupt leaders.MNDF to be on alert and prevent any bloodshed in our loved nation with clinical precision.
Dont blame G*******. Blame urself for not loving ut mother nation.Blame the so called democracy n human rights.Did anyone say we belive in Islam?

Anonymous said...

The parallels between Auditor General and Prosecutor General are interesting. Auditor General took over a very weak organization from Fathee and turned it around. Muizz takes over an even weaker organization from Azima Shukooru. Let us wait and see how he manages to turn it around.

Anonymous said...

A very good article, as usual. It will be hard for anyone who governed a country for 30 long years without any criticism, to digest constructive criticism. He is not used to see such reports in the past and had the pleasure of seeing only what he liked to hear. So it will be almost impossible for the independent commissions to function if Qayyoom is re elected. It is insane to even think of impeaching the Auditor General under the present scenario. So think twice before you (parliament members) vote for such a motion. If you vote for the motion, I warn you, we will make sure you never would get elected again. If it were a time bomb, it was created by the government and NOT by the Auditor General.