Saturday, November 8, 2008

Anti-Corruption Commission Signals Activation

Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Commission Ali Rasheed Umar has signaled the activation of his Commission by indicating to the media that he will soon start investigating cases of suspected corruption identified by the Auditor General. He has told the local media that he intends to meet the Auditor General this week to discuss investigation of cases identified in the audit reports.

The Anti-Corruption Commission is one of the 7 independent institutions formed under the Constitution to ensure smooth functioning of democracy. Unlike the old Anti-Corruption Board (ACB), the new Commission has a broader mandate of preventing corruption proactively. Thus Article 202 (c) of the Constitution requires the Commission “to carry out research on the prevention of corruption and to submit recommendations for improvement to relevant authorities regarding actions to be taken;” while Clause (d) of the same Article requires it to “promote the values of honesty and integrity in the operations of the State, and to promote public awareness of the dangers of corruption.”

The Commission’s broader mandate implies that it cannot limit itself to reactively investigating cases reported to it. It will have to develop and implement a research based program to root out corruption. It will also be answerable for achieving that objective, unlike the old ACB, which was not answerable for anything. The Anti-Corruption Board was a totally discredited body, better known for harassing island katheebs who did not toe the line rather than any meaningful effort to stop corruption in high places.

During the Majlis debate on the Law on Anti-Corruption Commission in September, Members criticized the worsening corruption situation in the public sector. They expressed dismay about the lack of political will and intention on the part of the government to fight corruption. They pointed out that the government had swept several large scale corruption cases under the carpet.

The ineffectiveness of the ACB had made the Maldives one of the most corrupt countries on earth. The Corruption Perceptions Index 2008 compiled by Transparency International (TI) placed Maldives at the 115th place among 180 countries, 31 places below its 84th position last year.

The TI report came as no surprise to ordinary Maldivians for whom it is a fact of life to see multistory buildings burgeoning around them –buildings belonging to government officials in strategic positions and senior executives of state owned companies. Such ostentation of wealth beyond all legitimate sources of income is glaringly visible to everyone except those responsible to stop it. While company after company from FPID to MNSL, and Air Maldives to Stelco and STO had been embroiled in scandal after scandal, no senior official of any of these companies had ever been held accountable. On the contrary they continued to get promotion after promotion ending in ministerial or diplomatic posts.

Perhaps the Anti Corruption Commission will fare a little better, being part of an unprecedented wave of democratic reforms. A new Constitution was ratified on 7 August paving the way for multi-party elections. A Supreme Court, an Election Commission, and a Judicial Service Commission have been established. Further a new government is coming to power with the promise of weeding out corruption.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post as usual.