Finance Minister to be summoned to committee

Parliament’s Finance Committee decided on Wednesday to summon Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad to the committee before the annual state budget for 2013 is submitted to parliament.

Local daily Haveeru reported last week that members of the public accounts oversight committee decided that the minister should be questioned over MVR 31 million (US$2 million) withheld from the Male’ Health Corporation (MHC), which was reportedly allocated to pay electricity bills for the Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

The committee did not however set a date for summoning the minister.

At a meeting of the Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday night, state institutions with overdue electricity bills blamed the Finance Ministry for withholding funds.

The health corporation had the largest unpaid electricity bill with MVR 31 million (US$2 million) owed to the State Electricity Company (STELCO).

STELCO officials informed the Government Oversight Committee that various state institutions owed the government company a total of MVR 174 million (US$11.3 million) in unpaid electricity bills.

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim meanwhile told Sun Online last week that the annual budget was submitted to parliament with only three weeks to assess the planned expenditure, which was not enough time to seek expert advise for a comprehensive assessment.

“We believe that the budget should be presented to parliament latest during the first week of October,” Niyaz was quoted as saying.

Niyaz suggesting that passing the budget before the end of December resulted in problems with executing the budget items.

Niyaz also insisted that government projects should only be financed by government revenue.

“The law states that expenses can only be made if they are included in the budget. Anyone who releases funds otherwise, is committing a crime. Legal action should be taken against them. The government will not be responsible for that. It is the person’s fault,” he said.

Niyaz went on to say that he did not agree with the government obtaining loans to pay civil servants’ salaries.

“Loans should be obtained for capital expenses. These problems can only be solved by reducing recurring expenses,” the Auditor General was quoted as saying.