Elections Commission of Maldives (EC)’s 2010 audit report has revealed that commission members “irresponsibly” used state funds to cover lavish medical insurance, buy ipads and expensive mobile phones while failing to maintain office records and recover money withdrawn from the budget by political parties.
Between 2008 and 2010 EC members and their dependents “irresponsibly” chose the “most expensive” medical insurance scheme available from Allied Insurance at Rf.35,000 per person, raising the level of insurance paid through the budget to Rf1.1 million (US$70,500).
According to the report made public on Thursday, the five EC members illegally withdrew allowances from the commission’s budget to pay a their mobile phone bills, totalling Rf74,155 (US$4,809).
The AG steadily notes that the salary and benefits of independent commission members are determined by the People’s Majlis (parliament), and that benefits do not cover phone allowances.
An additional Rf81,861 (US$5,308) was spent on the phone allowances of EC staff, which the AG reports was spent without the Finance Ministry’s approval.
The commission has also spent a total of Rf248, 790 (US$16,134) to buy mobile phones over the past three years, while the AG notes that the chosen models were the “most expensive” ones available in the market at the time.
While some phones are now missing, others have been gifted to staff despite the laws prohibiting the gifting of any state property or item to staff, the AG observed. He recommended that the phone costs be recovered from the staff members concerned.
EC staff also received a total of Rf971,807 (US$63,022) as overtime pay, although there was no record to confirm their work.
The report further reveals that EC members bought five ipads worth Rf 77,500 (US$5,025) in September 2011, after neglecting the AG office’s advice to the contrary.
The commission had previously been asked to use the existing 97 laptops and 250 netbooks, of which some were inexplicably lost.
AG noted the laptops were bought in violation of public finance regulation during the 2008 elections, a case now forwarded by ACC to the Prosecutor General Office.
The report also highlighted inefficiencies in the current mechanism for allocating funds to political parties, a task mandated to the EC.
AG Ibrahim explained that the existing policy to distribute 60 percent of the total funds based on the number of party members, and 40 percent equally among the existing parties, provides an “opportunity to misuse state funds”.
According to him, several parties have gained additional money by manipulating the number of party members, a concern often raised by the Elections Commission.
AG added that it is “financial fraud” and urged to take legal action against the responsible parties, while recommending that the fund distribution mechanism be revised.
He also highlighted that among the existing 15 political parties, several do not have the requisite 3,000 registered members while others are politically inactive.
Therefore, he recommends to stop funding parties with membership below 3,000. According to report statistics, nine existing parties would not qualify.
Since the state budget is a deficit budget, AG also recommends that funds allocated for political parties be determined by state income instead of the total state budget.
Currently, 0.1- 0.2 percent of state budget must be allocated to political parties.
In the past five years the commission has fined seven political parties up to Rf435, 000 (US$28,210) for not submitting the annual financial report on time. However, AG notes that 60 percent of that sum has not yet been collected.
AG also concluded that the EC’s financial statements for the past year do not show the “commission’s financial status accurately and honestly”.
The AG concluded that Rf11.4 million (US$740496) was allegedly distributed to atoll offices during the 2011 elections by the EC as an “expense in the financial statement”, however it has “not been spent in real” and some money still remains in island bank accounts.
Of the Rf75.2 million (US$4.9 million) released as an annual budget to the EC in 2010, the report found that only Rf52.3 million was recorded as spent.