Governance Politics

Minister denies graft at communication ministry, marginalising Shaafiee

Minister of Science, Communication and Technology Mohamed Maleeh Jamal has dismissed corruption allegations made by his former state minister and instead accused Mohamed Shaafiee of having neglected his work.

Shaafiee announced his resignation on Thursday, saying his concerns over the planned acquisition of software solutions for Dharumavantha Hospital had been ignored.

A day later, Shaafiee posted a blog post with a series of allegations against the minister.

In March, Shaafiee warned that corruption involving the 25-storey Dharumavantha Hospital (adjacent to Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) but under the same management and generally considered to be one hospital) would “continue with the planned bidding of a multimillion-dollar healthcare software suite”.

In a series of subsequent tweets, Shaafiee said he had been unsuccessful in getting more information on the project.

Last week, he tweeted that the government was “preferring icthealth.com – the software solution chosen by the perpetrators of the 25-storey IGMG building scandal”.

After resigning on Thursday he tweeted: “I saw no reason to keep drawing a salary when matters I [kept raising were] getting swept under the rug.”

However, the ministry and IGMH have denied the allegations and said no software had yet been bought for the project.

MVR92.5 million (US$6 million) was allocated in the 2019 state budget to acquire “major medical equipment and accessories” for Dharumavantha Hospital.

A day after Shaafiee resigned, he wrote a lengthy blog post explaining his “failures” and the reasons for his decision.

“Those who say I have failed are right. I have failed indeed. I failed to force my superiors to address my concerns,” he wrote.

Shaafiee said “the IGMH saga” was just one of the reasons behind his decision to quit, and believes he was marginalised at the ministry.

“I was refused admission into a whole floor of the NCC [the former name for the National Centre for Information Technology] building where I used to regularly meet the infrastructure team in their department office space,” he said, adding that Maleeh had explicitly ordered department heads to refuse entry to “two specific state ministers”.

“Just last month, I also learned that the department heads were also instructed not to allow their subordinates to discuss their work with us.”

However, Maleeh said it was imperative for national security to limit access to sensitive areas.

“That floor contains the National Data Centre. What office would allow everyone to freely walk into the data centre? This is the National Data Centre. It was not closed to specific people. We are trying to bring the National Data Centre [up] to ISO standards by increasing security,” Maleeh told the Maldives Independent.

He also denied marginalising the former minister. “How can I marginalise someone? We are a small ministry. We all work together.

“We are a new ministry. What we are doing is birthing a new ministry from scratch, so we do not have [a lot of] resources. We have just 14 staff in the corporate division.”

He accused Shaafiee of “lacking sincerity” and claimed that he had not “come to the office in over a month”.

“There is no basis to these allegations. He has made very big false allegations against the ministry,” Maleeh said.

“He has not come to the office for over a month. And we informed the president’s office about this, and then he resigns making these allegations, without bringing any issues to my attention.

“He was assigned a very important task. We asked him to make the ICT [information and communications technology] master plan – a framework. Over six months and it has not been completed.”

Maleeh also accused Shaafiee of violating regulations governing political appointments by revealing sensitive information.

“All political appointees are given a handbook when appointed. It says no appointee should reveal information gained due to his/her position.”

In his blog, Shaafiee raised concerns about several ongoing projects, including a software licensing project started during the former administration  – which he described as having had “zero delivery”.

“The server software components have yet to be deployed, despite the government making three years of payments for a five-year project starting in 2016,” Shaafiee wrote.

The fourth payment was made earlier this month, he claimed, despite the issue being raised with the minister, the attorney general, the auditor general and the ministry of finance.

He also raised concerns about a new “ICT park” being developed in Fuvahmulah and a government call centre project.

He criticised the ministry for preferring “in-house development” over outsourcing, and for not making any effort to encourage scientific research and development programmes.

“A number of very serious issues have to be addressed with regard to the overall ICT infrastructure of the government. These issues are so serious that I cannot disclose them in public as they most certainly fall under the purview of national security,” he wrote.

“These are matters for which the minister should be held accountable, and which must be addressed immediately.”

Maleeh was a youth and sports minister during the early years of Yameen’s administration.

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Source URL:  Maldives Independent

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