Failure to recover misappropriated state funds to be investigated: Parliament Public Accounts Committee

Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee will investigate the failure of authorities to recover funds highlighted by the auditor general as misappropriated.

In a meeting held on Monday (February 25), Committee Chairperson MP Ahmed Nazim revealed that the committee intended to send a letter to Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor regarding the failure to recover the misappropriated funds.

Majlis Finance Committee member MP Ahmed Hamza told Minivan News today (February 26) that the Public Accounts Committee was still going through the reports and was unable to give an estimate as to how much money is still owed as a result of the misuse of state funds.

“We are having to look into past audit reports starting from when they first began under [former President Maumoon Abdul] Gayoom was president. We are not able to scrutinise the spending from any year before audit reports were introduced.

“We have agreed that in order to scrutinise Gayoom’s government accounts, the majority of those looking into them will be held by opposition parties. This will also be the same when [former President Mohamed] Nasheed’s accounts are looked into,” Hamza said.

The finance committee member said that there were two issues in regard to the failure of recovering misused funds.

“If the government incurs a loss due to the misappropriation of funds, rather than recover the money, the guilty party is faced with criminal punishment instead.

“Secondly, it is a case of certain members finding it not possible to recover the funds that had been misused,” Hamza added.

When asked whether there had been any effort to recover the money in the past, Hamza stressed that some had been returned, but he was unable to give a rough figure as to how much.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Visam Ali was reported by local media as saying that government offices do not correct issues relating to how funds are managed, even after repeatedly being advised to do so in audit reports.

The Attorney General Aishath Azima Shakoor and Head of Majlis Finance Committee and MP Ahmed Nazim were not responding to calls from Minivan News at time of press.

Finance Committee member and Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa answered his phone when contacted by Minivan News stating that he was “in a meeting”.

Extravagant spending

Previous reports compiled by the auditor general have uncovered extravagant spending by former Presidents and ministerial officials.

Earlier this year, an audit report for 2010 highlighted 12 instances whereby the President’s Office – under Nasheed’s government – had acted in breach of laws and regulations.

The report noted that in 2010, the President’s Office spent MVR 7,415,960 (US$480,931) over the parliament approved budget for the office.

In addition, the report also highlighted Nasheed’s chartering of an Island Aviation flight from Colombo to Male’ on November 19, 2010. This had cost MVR 146,490 (US$9500).

The audit report states that while all these were paid from state funds, no records were available to prove that Nasheed booked this flight for official purposes.

The report further reveals that President Mohamed Waheed Hassan, then Vice President, had spent MVR 764,121 (US$49,554) on a trip to Malaysia and America with his own family.

Meanwhile, the expenses of Former President Gayoom were leaked last year revealing the excessive spending on Gayoom’s family from money allocated to helping the poor.

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) MP Rozaina Adam leaked the invoices revealing Gayoom’s spending through Twitter in 2012.

In a statement, Rozaina noted that a total of MVR 905,636 (US$58,807) was spent on various items for Gayoom’s family, including MVR 193,209 (US$12,546) on trouser material in 2008.

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim told newspaper Haveeru back in October 2012 that the state should recover funds used by former presidents on their families and associates.

Lack of legislation explicitly prohibiting such expenses was not an obstacle to recovering the misappropriated funds, the Auditor General contended.

He noted that there was no law that authorised the use of public funds for personal expenses, adding that assistance from state funds should be provided on an equal and fair basis.

“Even if its Nasheed, Waheed or Maumoon, no one can spend state funds for their own personal use,” Niyaz was quoted as saying.