The Auditor General (AG) has said the annual audit report of the Elections Commission (EC) for the year of 2010 suggests that the members of the elections commission had misappropriated funds.
During a meeting with Parliament’s Financial Committee this Wednesday, the AG said the audit reports had identified that the commission failed to produce necessary documents over how its expenditure had been spent.
This included the failure to produce spending details of a sum of money worth Rf 15 million (US$972,762) out of Rf 54 million (US$3,501,945), which had been deposited to regional accounts across the country to facilitate elections.
Local newspaper Sun Online reported the AG as stating that there were several discrepancies found in the audit report, including that the members of EC had stayed in the residences of family members during official trips and the purchase of several electronic devices such as iPads and digital cameras against advice from the office of the auditor general.
The newspaper also reported the AG stating that the Ipads that were bought for each member of the commission had been given out to the family members of the commission members and the money taken as phone allowance had also been transferred to some member’s family members.
AG also alleged that the EC had spent excessively and irresponsibly from the budget that was allocated to the commission. He alleged that a digital camera worth Rf 200,000 (US$ 12,970.17) was bought along with three coffee makers worth Rf 60,000 (US$ 3,891).
The AG was stated quoting that “the Elections Commission is not a photo studio to buy a digital camera worth up to 200,000 rufiya. This shows how irresponsible the commission has been in spending the money.”
Answering questions posed by the members of the Financial Committee, the AG stated that commission members chose to each buy iPads, and that 250 laptops were not used. He also stated that the buying of iPads on state funds was illegal and against the Public Finance act.
The AG however reiterated that even though the commission had failed in producing the details of how the sum of Rf 15 million was spent out of the Rf 54 million allocated to facilitate elections, it was not embezzlement but negligence in overseeing and monitoring expenditure.
The elections commission stated in the Finance Committee that it had the details of how Rf 39 million out of the Rf 54 million was spent, but did not have the details of the remaining Rf 15 million.
Elections Commission response
Speaking to Minivan News earlier, Elections Commissioner Fuad Thaufeeq denied the allegations in the audit report citing that the commission did not have to be responsible for expenditure prior to when the commission was formed.
“None of the members in the present commission have done anything against the financial regulations or the constitution,” he said.
“We are very much ready to prove we are innocent. The present committee doesn’t have to be responsible before November 24, 2009,” he also said at the time.
The Auditor General also concurred at the time with Thaufeeq that the period in question did pre-date the current Election Commissioner’s tenure.
When contacted, Deputy President of Elections Commission Ahmed Fayaz told Minivan News that Thaufeeq would be the best person to give information. However he was not responding to calls at time of press
Along with his assertions that the expenses concerned pre-dated the current incarnation of the EC, Thaufeeq previously told Minivan News that he had the impression that there were efforts being undertaken to discredit members of the commission.
The ousted Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) has called for early elections after the party’s Mohamed Nasheed resigned on February 7 in an alleged “coup d’état.” The Commonwealth and EU have supported the call for early elections.
However State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon – daughter of former President Gayoom – recently told the BBC that the state’s independent institutions including the Elections Commission, Human Rights Commission (HRCM) and the judiciary were not strong enough for early elections to be held.
Unless the institutions are strengthened, elections cannot be held in the country in “the foreseeable future,” Dunya told the BBC.
The US government subsequently pledged US$500,000 (Rf7.7 million) for an elections programme to assist Maldivian institutions in ensuring a free and fair presidential election. The assistance will be made available from July 2012.
“We have already held three successful elections in the past: the country’s first multi-party election in 2008, parliamentary elections in 2009 and local council elections in 2011,” Thaufeeq has said.
“There were more than 1180 seats for the island councils, atoll councils and city councils. That was a very large and complicated election. It was very successful. So I don’t see how anyone can raise questions regarding the Election Commission’s capacity,” he added.
Recently-held by-elections for the seats of Thimarafushi and Kaashidhoo were decided in favour of MPs affiliated with the new government.