Housing Minister takes heat over controversial project

Minister of National Planning, Housing and Infrastructure, Mohamed Aslam | Photo: Majlis

Male’, Maldives – The Minister of Housing and Infrastructure Mohamed Aslam has been the subject of criticism during the Parliamentary sitting on Wednesday, after the topic of the road development project of R. Dhuvaafaru came up.

The topic sparked controversy, given the fact that it was not initially included in the state budget, but was later contracted despite so. Minister Aslam faced heated questions and accusations of being biased in favor of certain constituencies over close relations.

In a bid to justify the project, Minister Aslam explained that the phase two of the road development in Dhuvaafaru – which was awarded on September 9th, for a total of MVR 37. 8 million – was to rectify the issues which were not resolved in phase one of the project, however, only be slammed with the claim of MP Moosa Siraj of Fonadhoo constituency, who said that the appropriate policy for the project extension was not followed.

“When projects are run as an extension, it is permissible to do sor based on the variation, so long as it does not exceed set limitations. However, I have to ask this, because the extension cost should not exceed a certain percentage of the [initial] project.” Siraj said.

MP of Vilufushi Hassan Afeef constituency also had a go at the Minister, highlighting that expenditure from state funds are clearly highlighted in the constitutions and that any proceeding with regards to the budgets must adhere to the regulations mandated as such.

“Expenditures of out of the budget, as you mentioned, are only allowed in cases of emergencies, or in cases of fund shortages for critical projects. So I want to clarify what the government deems as important, since the Minister stated do.” MP Afeef asked.

However, the Minister denied any violations of the constitution. “If any other institution of the government is doing so, please clarify that from the respective institution.” Minister Aslam said.

The Minister maintained his stance that the project is not unconstitutional and that that the project was awarded only to resolve issues which were not resolved in the initial phase of the project, despite being asked by several MPs.

MP of Mid Henveiru constituency and Parliamentary Group Leader of MDP, Ali Azim also expressed concern over the matter and stated that it is worrying that an expense was made out of the budget.

“Some Ministries are acting in violation of what is mandated in the constitution. So my question to the Minister is, was the project awarded without it being budgeted? And how was this done?” MP Azim asked.

However, Minister Aslam refrained from giving a direct answer, and reiterated that it is just an extension project, which lead to the Speaker of the Parliament, Mohamed Nasheed to repeat the question.

However, the Minister only stated that similar projects have been carried out with extra expenses previously as well.

The MVR 37.8 million project was awarded to Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC) on September 9th, and has been completed by 81 percent as of 1st November, the company announced.

The first phase of the road construction project in Dhuvaafaru was initiated on June 12, 2019, followed by the second phase, which began on 3rd October. Under the second phase, the company will be completing pavements stretching up to 4,960 square meters and roads measuring 17,690 square meters as well as planting cables and street lights, along with street signs.