Parliamentary committee suspends budget review process

The parliamentary committee chosen to evaluate the Rf11.9 mid-term budget for 2010 has suspended the process after requesting information from the finance ministry.

In an email to Minivan News today, MP Ahmed Nazim (pictured) of the opposition People’s Alliance, chairman of the 15-member ad hoc committee and deputy speaker of parliament, said some of the information was presented in a “confusing and misleading” way.

“The budget is very misleading as the finance ministry has not provided any details for major changes in budgeted figures. For example expenditure of IGMH [Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital] has been reduced from Rf317,662,050 to Rf248,842,204,” he said.

“The question is why? When we questioned the health minister in the committee only we came to know that they plan to corporatise IGMH by forming a Health Corporation and remove or reduce state subsidies.”

He added subsidies for the Maldives National Broadcasting Corporation was not included in the budget:  “Can TVM [Television Maldives] and VoM [Voice of Maldives] finance their 2010 operations on their own? Surely not.”

Among other discrepancies were expenditure and revenue included in the budget for dissolved bodies and departments.

“The government recently announced that they have abolished Public Complaints Bureau and Department of medical Services. BUT expenditure amounting to Rf2.5 million is included in 2010 budget for Public Complaints Bureau in Home Ministry budget and Rf6.5 million is included as REVENUE from Dept of Medical Services,” he said.

Further, the committee noted that the budget for atoll hospitals was higher than the previous year.

“When we questioned the health minister and senior officials of the health ministry they said they don’t know the reason for that. They also said that MAY BE it is because the budgets of all other health centre’s of the atoll is included in the atoll hospital budget of that respective atolls,” said Nazim. “We cannot go ahead with a budget review with answers like ‘may be’. We need to be sure.”

Nazim said the finance ministry has not responded to the committee’s letter requesting information.

But, he added, the committee would be able to complete its evaluation in the required time frame.

Officials from the finance ministry did not respond to Minivan News’ requests for comment today.

Parliament yesterday wrapped up the budget debate after 60 MPs spoke throughout three sittings.

MPs of the opposition Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party-People’s Alliance (DRP-PA) coalition strongly criticised the budget, arguing it did not include sufficient funds for development projects.