Members of the Maldives Media Council (MMC) have been illegally receiving a living allowance of Rf 7500 (US$500) in addition to their monthly salaries, according to an audit report for the year prepared by the Auditor General’s office.
The Auditor General’s report noted that the article 19[a] of MMC Act states that salaries of Council’s Chair, Vice Chair and members shall be determined by the parliament, and that the salary for the council member determined by the parliament on January 2011 was Rf 8000 (US$533) for the Chair of the Council, Rf 6500 (US$433) for the Vice Chair, and Rf 5000 (US$333) for each council member.
The report observed that council members started receiving the allowance on January 20, 2011, after the Chair of the Council sent a signed memo to the council’s corporate affairs unit.
The Auditor General at the time was aware of the matter and forwarded the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) and on February 17, 2011, the ACC sent a letter to the council asking it to stop claiming the allowance until the ACC concluded the case.
‘’On February 20, the council members held their 7th meeting of the year and in the meeting all members voted that there was no reason why the council should follow instructions as in the letter sent by the ACC,’’ the audit report noted.
On April 20 council members decided not to receive the allowance, after they were asked by ACC to discontinue a second time. The MMC then sent letters to council members asking them to return the amounts they had received as living allowances – by now a total of almost a million rufiya, in addition to their salaries.
According to the Auditor General’s report, the council members did not receive the living allowance for six months from May to August. However a lump sum for six months worth of the living allowance sum was included in council members’ salaries for August – a total of Rf 45,000 (US$2900) for each council member.
The report also stated that by the end of August the council had spent a total Rf9 00000 (US$60,000) on paying members living allowances.
The Auditor General’s report stated that the living allowance was an illegal expense, despite parliament approving the MMC’s budget including the allowance, and noted that the MMC had behaved inappropriately for an institution that was required by nature to have the trust and confidence of the public.
Chair of the MMC Mohamed Nazeef told Minivan News that the issue “had been solved”, and that “some” of the council members had now returned the money they received as living allowances.