Parliament Update : October – December 2014

Transparency Maldives intends to increase accountability of the Parliament and enhance public trust in the institution. The organization is currently identifying and covering important developments so as to disclose the recent parliamentary matters to the general public. In this regard, a series of updates will be published on the website in the upcoming months.

This particular report highlights the important events and discussions that took place in the Parliament from October to December 2014. These include important matters related to the budget 2015, decentralization, health sector reform, and key institutional appointments.
Budget 2015

The Parliament has finalized a budget of 24.3 billion for 2015, on 10th December 2014. While concluding committee discussion sessions on the budget for 2015, the Budget Committee had proposed eleven recommendations, which included controversial amendments to existing laws.

One of the recommendations is merging independent institutions, which were formed to enhance democratic governance in the country. The new Constitution was ratified in 2008, and it provided for the establishment of constitutionally-mandated independent institutions. To establish a modern democracy with accountability mechanisms, the ‘Roadmap for Reform’ advocated for independent state institutions.

The budget was finalized without considering the opposition party’s recommendations and opposition MPs abstained from voting. A green tax initiative, an acquisition fee on Special Economic Zones and leasing of ten resorts include some measures to increase government revenue in 2015. The finalized budget is relatively high compared to the current year’s budget. To minimize government expenditure, the government has already announced 2015 as a “job freeze” year. This means the government has to resort to private sector to create jobs for youth.

Decentralization and health sector reform

The Budget Committee has also proposed to bring changes to the Decentralization Act. Maldives, with many dispersed islands over a relatively large area where transport networks are still inefficient and disconnected, requires a more decentralized approach in providing resources and services. The proposed changes include making the council members part-time, except the President of the Councils. The part-time councillors, however, will be entitled a commission based on the number of meetings they attend.

The Committee has also recommended measures to increase the quality of health services provided by IGMH, decrease the number of expatriates in tourism sector, and establish a local development bank.
The Government is formed by a dominant ruling coalition with a clear majority in the Parliament. The opposition MPs accused the coalition of taking unfair advantage of having a majority.

Key institutional appointments
Also, on 24th November 2014 , the Parliament has approved Hassan Ziyath as the new Auditor General. The Auditor General’s position became vacant as the ruling coalition made amendments to the Auditor General’s Act. According to the MPs of the opposition, the amendment was against the Constitution. Article 268 clearly states that all laws of the Maldives must be enacted in accordance with the Constitution and any law or part of any law inconsistent with the Constitution is, to the extent of  its inconsistency, void and of no force and effect. Also, according to the Article 218  (a) of the Constitution, the Auditor General shall only be removed from office on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
On 4th December 2014, the Parliament approved the members nominated by the President for the Elections Commission. The opposition MPs highlighted that the removal of former President of the Commission and a Commission member was unconstitutional. The Article 177  (a) of the Constitution, states that a member of Elections Commission shall only be removed from office on the ground of misconduct, incapacity or incompetence.
The past month has been a busy month for the Parliament where important discussions were held. This included budget finalization, key appointments to important institutions and amendments to existing laws. Moreover, the amendment to the Decentralization is also a key amendment.