AusAID cash went to Marawi terrorist
The Australian government paid one of the seven Maute brothers responsible for the deadly siege of Marawi city — the most serious regional terror event in years — potentially millions of dollars to build classrooms in the southern Philippines, even after the militant group had publicly pledged allegiance to Islamic State in 2014.
The Weekend Australian has learned that Mohammadkhayam Maute, the eldest brother, was contracted to help build classrooms, science laboratories and school libraries across the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao in a scheme funded through the former AusAID agency, now absorbed into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The six-year, $12.7 million project, which ran from 2012 to this year, was a cornerstone of Australia’s aid contribution to The Philippines through its Basic Edu- cation Assistance for Muslim Mindanao program that aimed to build hundreds of classrooms in the most disadvantaged districts.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop marked the end of the scheme in March this year with a visit to Mindanao, where she met beneficiaries and announced funding to support conflict-sensitive education services in the ARMM.
Last night her spokeswoman confirmed the department discovered the Maute link in an audit of the project in late 2015 after a subcontractor, Habitat for Humanity, was sacked for underperformance. “It was revealed that Habitat for Humanity had contracted some of the classroom construction work to a local firm associated with the Maute family,” she said.
The Maute contract was extinguished once the subcontractor was sacked and there was no allegation of illegal activity or findings that money had been diverted from the school project, she said.
The Maute contract raises serious questions about government due diligence on aid projects in conflict-ridden countries. Mind- anao has a long history as a training ground for terrorists, including the Bali bombers, and for years has been subject to strong DFAT advisories cautioning against travel.
Australia spends millions of dollars a year interrupting terror financing and in September announced a $4.6m project to block funding to Islamic State-aligned terrorist groups in Southeast Asia.
Although the Maute family may have been just another armed clan when the contract was awarded, its links to Indonesia’s Jemaah Islamiah terror network responsible for the Bali bombings should have raised alarm bells.
The contract continued even as the Maute group won national notoriety with its declared intention to establish an Islamic caliphate and increasingly violent attacks.
The Maute family was contracted through its Alkhayam Sultana Construction company, registered in the name of Najivya Sultana Koran Maute, one of Mohammadkhayam’s wives and, like her late husband, a civil engineer.
Pictures on his now-deleted Facebook page suggest he was deeply involved in the contract.
The Weekend Australian has seen one picture from 2015 — a year after the Mautes pledged allegiance to Islamic State — that shows Mohammadkhayam and Najivya standing in front of a new classroom beside an Australian government representative and local officials. The AusAID logo is displayed prominently.
The Philippines military says all seven Maute brothers were killed in the Marawi conflict.