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Maldives to conduct audit into delayed TATA housing project

Fathmath Shaahunaz
29 June 2016, MVT 10:56
Members of the parliamentary finance committee pictured during the sit-down on Tuesday. MIHAARU PHOTO/NISHAN ALI
Fathmath Shaahunaz
29 June 2016, MVT 10:56

The parliament’s Finance Committee has resolved to conduct a special audit regarding the issue of the flats developed in two land plots of capital Male, Gaakoshi and the former location of Arabiyya School, by an Indian firm.

Speaking at a committee meeting held Tuesday, its chair and Villimaafaanu MP Ahmed Nihan declared that the committee had agreed to undertake a special audit on the flats via the Auditor General’s Office.

The flats had been developed by India’s Tata Housing Development Company, which managed the project jointly with SG18 Developers Pvt Ltd under the special purpose vehicle (SPV) “Apex Realty”. Apex has refused to handover the flats, stating that the government is yet to pay the agreed amount of MVR 278 million.

Meanwhile, the government has also recently decided to sell the flats to the public for MVR 2 million within five years, which amounts the monthly payments to MVR 33,000, whereas the original price was MVR 9000 per month.

According to Nihan, the Finance Committee has received copies of the agreements, amendments and several letters regarding the issue. Noting that a substantial amount of time will be required to evaluate the documents, he disclosed that the issue will be pursued after the upcoming Eid al-Fitr holidays.

Shedding light on the issue, which had been submitted to the Finance Committee by an Abdulla Zakariyya, Vilufushi MP Riyaz Rasheed noted that the duty fees of procuring equipment for the flats (and for Lhaviyani atoll Lhossalafushi being developed as a resort) had been exempted, and the lowest two floors of the flats leased without charge for 50 years. In light of such allowances, he declared that facing a charge of MVR 178 million within 90 days of project completion is highly burdensome, which the committee is compelled to investigate.

Speaking at the committee meeting, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP)’s parliamentary group leader and Hinnavaru MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih stated that the former government had agreed with Tata on an established price for the flats. Accordingly, some of the flats had been settled on a price of USD 400 per month, with the buyer owning full rights in 25 years, he said.

“We need to look into why [the buyers] have to suddenly pay MVR 33,000 [monthly] within five years. The committee members need time to inspect it.”

Upon their decision to assess the issue, the Finance Committee had also decided to summon the housing ministry and the project’s contractor. However, they were not present for Tuesday’s meeting.

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