The Information Commissioner's Office (ICOM) has organised a closed session with the President's Office to review the receipts from President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih's visit to New York. The President's Office had decided to classify the receipts from the visit, made between the 18th and 26th of September 2021; they cited that the receipts violated third-party privacy and posed a threat to security.
Dhiyares, the sister-newspaper of The Maldives Journal, had sought the costs incurred by the presidential visit to New York in September 2021 through the Right To Information Act. Dhiyares had reservations about the information disclosed by the President's Office; as it had several unexplained discrepancies. Dhiyares requested for the receipts from the President's New York visit, and the President's Office declined.
Dhiyares appealed the President's Office decision to ICOM. At a hearing held today at ICOM, the President's Office stated that they believed that the requested information had been fully disclosed. The President's Office was represented by Mauroof Ahmed, Deputy Legal Officer at the President's Office. Ahmed said that the President's Office was not obliged to provide people who made information requests with the receipts of costs incurred.
Information Commissioner Ahid Rasheed responded that receipts would also be classified as information.
Giving details on how the receipts violated third-party privacy and posed a risk to security; Ahmed said that the receipts could disclose a health issue suffered by one of the delegates. Also, he continued, disclosing information about the hotels in which the President stayed posed a threat to security.
"This Office believes that the appropriate information has been disclosed", said Ahmed. He said that he did not accept that the receipts needed to be disclosed.
Information Commissioner Ahid Rasheed stated that the law defined withholding information in the interest of security, and he said that the information could be provided after redacting all information that could pose a threat to the President's security and could violate a third party's privacy. He said that the President's Office has not been able to explain why the information was not disclosed after redactions had been made.
The Information Commissioner decided to schedule a closed session with the President's Office to review the receipts and to verify if there was anything in the receipts that prevented them from being disclosed.