The Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports failed to collect MVR 168.4 million (US$10.9 million) in expatriate work permit fees for the past three years and MVR 191 million (US$12.3 million) in repayments for student loans, the ministry’s audit report for 2011 has revealed.
The audit report (Dhivehi) made public on Monday stated that information from the past three years on expatriate work visas showed that the year-on-year increase in foreign workers arriving in the Maldives was “alarming.”
“Records from the Department of Immigration and Emigration show that from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 the state did not receive MVR 168,414,000 (US$10.9 million) owed as work permit fees,” the audit report revealed.
Records showed that the number of foreign workers living in the Maldives without paying work permit fees in 2009 was 16,934.
The figure increased to 27,793 in 2010 and 39,756 in 2011.
While the expatriate workforce in the Maldives as of December 2009 was 57,968 registered workers, the figure had risen to 99,369 by September 2011.
Of the total number of foreign workers, 55 percent or 54,653 expatriates were from Bangladesh and “69 percent of these, or 37,710 people, are working in the country illegally.”
Of the remaining 44,716 from other nations, 18 percent or 8,048 were illegal workers.
“Therefore, records show that the total number of foreigners working in the Maldives illegally is 45,758 (46 percent of foreign workers),” the report revealed.
Student loan repayments
The student loan repayments were meanwhile owed for two loan schemes launched respectively in 2000 and 2005.
As of December 31, 2011, the report found that the ministry failed to collect 154.6 million (US$10 million) as repayments for a long-term student loan programme launched in 2005 from a national higher education fund.
Of MVR 155.6 million (US$10 million) released between 2005 and 2011, the audit discovered that only MVR 904,872.28 (US$58,681) was repaid.
“Students who went for higher education under the scheme have not been repaying the loans because the department of higher education had not sent repayment schedules with details of the total amounts owed,” the report found.
If “adequate efforts” had been undertaken to collect payments, the Auditor General’s Office noted that “a revolving fund could have been established to provide higher education opportunities without additional expenditure from the state budget.”
Meanwhile in 2000, the report explained, the ministry launched a programme with World Bank loan assistance titled the “third education project” and issued MVR 250 million (US$16.2 million) under the scheme, with a specified portion to be paid back to the ministry.
“While it was determined that 15 percent from government employees participating in the scheme and 50 percent from participants from private companies would be collected, we note that repayments have not been sought from anyone,” the report stated.
“And as a result of the ministry not properly maintaining records of how the money was spent on students under the scheme, we note that details of how funds were released for individual students are not available and no one was sent repayment schedules.”
The report observed that MVR 37.5 million (US$2.4 million) estimated as repayments owed under the scheme has not been collected due to the “carelessness, incompetence and negligence of those in charge of the ministry’s relevant department”.
In February 2012, the report noted, the department of higher education and its staff at the Human Resource Ministry were transferred under the Ministry of Education.
Violations of Public Finance Act
The Auditor General’s Office stated that it did not believe expenditure out of the ministry’s budget was “mainly” in accordance with the Public Finance Act and “to the extent specified in the budget, on matters determined in the budget and in ways that would achieve the objectives of the ministry’s budget for 2011.”
In addition to the ministry failing to collect student loan repayments and unpaid work permit fees, the audit report noted a number of instances that were ostensibly in violation of the Public Finance Act and regulations under the law.
The audit discovered that seven political appointees were paid salaries and allowances in 2010 with no records of attendance.
The responsibilities of the seven senior officials who did not sign attendance sheets were unclear, the report noted.
Moreover, the audit found that a state minister was paid MVR 165,897.93 (US$10,758) as salary from February 13, 2012 to May 2012 despite not attending the office during the period.
While the state minister had submitted a written request for a holiday on February 13 before flying abroad, the report noted that the ministry had not made official arrangements for the leave of absence.
On February 7, 2012, former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned under controversial circumstances following a police mutiny at the Republic Square.
“[The state minister] was removed from the post by the President’s Office on July 22, 2012,” the report noted.
In another case, the audit discovered that MVR 865,500.70 (US$56,128) was deposited for seven students studying in Malaysia under the office’s staff development scheme, in excess of the official approved stipend.
In place of RM11,760 (Malaysian Ringgits) as six month’s stipend for each student, a sheet sent to the bank from the ministry mistakenly stated US$11,760, the report found.
While the ministry’s staff studying in Malaysia received an additional MVR 123,642.96 (US$8,018) each, the report noted that no attempt had been made to recover the excess amounts.
The audit report blamed the “failure of the employees to carry out their responsibilities” in preparing, checking and authorising the sheet sent to the bank.
The ministry meanwhile incurred MVR 133,938 (US$8,686) as fines for late payment of water and electricity bills in 2011, but no employees were held responsible and the loss to the state was not recovered.
The report also found that a total of MVR 420,000 (US$27,237) was paid as allowances in 2011 – at a rate of MVR 2,500 (US$162) a month – for 15 members of the National Sports Council under the ministry, without official approval from the government.
The report noted that the council held only seven meetings in 2011, each lasting for about an hour and with half the council’s membership in attendance.
Meanwhile, as a result of failing to properly maintain stock inventories, equipment purchased by the ministry was not registered and five laptops and 15 printers were lost.
The audit also discovered that the ministry provided MVR 200,000 (US$12,970) to the Shaviyani Milandhoo island council in June 2011 to set up a net around the island’s football stadium.
The funds were not approved in the 2011 budget but were released based on a pledge by the President to the islanders, the report stated, noting that such expenditure was “in breach of budgetary rules.”
Cancelled beach games
The audit report revealed that the ministry spent MVR 1.28 million (US$84,306) for “a first-ever beach and water sports tournament in South Asia” that never took place.
In February 2011, event organisers told Minivan News that the “Maldives Beach Games 2011” would bring hundreds of athletes from around the world to compete in 10 sporting events.
The international games were launched in February with a laser show and an appearance from renowned Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya at a ceremony in Male’s Kulhivaru Ekuveni Indoor Hall.
The audit report meanwhile noted that the reasons for the eventual cancellation could not be discerned from the official documents.
The expenditure – made through the Maldives Olympic Committee – included over MVR 542,000 (US$35,149) on advertising and MVR 103,450 (US$6,708) on “a mascot and theme song for launching the beach games.”
Equipment, furniture and other items purchased for the cancelled games cost MVR139,545 (US$9,050).
Of the ultimately wasteful expenditure, the report noted that MVR 843,571 (US$54,706) was spent in violation of the Public Finance Act and regulations as estimates were only sought from one party.
A member of the sports council created by the ministry was meanwhile paid MVR50,000 (US$3,242) – without a public bidding process – to transfer sand from a soccer pitch made for the games to the artificial beach, the report found.
The Olympic Committee spent MVR 117,000 (US$7,588) to prepare the soccer pitch in the vacant plot in front of Villa College.
Moreover, a deputy minister and the sports council member travelled to Bangalore at a cost of MVR57,825 (US$3,750) purportedly in relation to the games, but the purpose of the trip was unclear as an official report was not prepared.