A Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture was paid salary and allowances from April 2011 to January 2012 with no official records of attendance, the ministry’s audit report for 2011 has revealed.
The audit report (Dhivehi) made public on Tuesday stated that a total of MVR 343,351 (US$22,267) was paid to the senior official for 10 months while there was no documentation to show that he “ever attended either the ministry or any office functioning under the ministry.”
The Auditor General recommended recovering the funds and taking action against the responsible staff at the ministry.
While there was no specific regulation governing attendance of political appointees at the time, the Auditor General contended that paying salaries without attendance records was against “the spirit of the public finance regulations.”
In addition, the audit discovered that the ministry gave a temporary license or authorisation to a private company to operate a tourist hotel at the Laamu atoll Kadhdhoo airport in violation of the Tourism Act.
The audit found that the permission was given despite an inspection report finding that the facility did not meet the criteria for a tourist guesthouse in terms of quality of service.
A tourist hotel is ranked higher than a guesthouse, the audit report noted.
Under articles 4, 18 and 19 of the tourism law, the report explained, a tourist hotel could not be operated on the plot at the regional airport.
The hotel was however operated from May 24, 2011 to December 25, 2011 before official permission or a permanent license was sought, the audit report noted.
Local media reported yesterday (November 28) that the guesthouse or hotel was operated by Heavy Load Maldives, a family business of MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik, chairperson of the formerly ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).
The Auditor General recommended submitting the case to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for further investigation.
Minivan News is seeking comment from former Tourism Minister Dr Mariyam Zulfa.
The audit report also noted that temporary authorisation or licenses for operating guesthouses were renewed “some times for over a year” while the facilities did not meet the requisite criteria.
Moreover, registration and licenses were provided to some dive centres and guesthouses without collecting registration and licensing fees.
In other cases highlighted in the report, the audit noted that documentation was not properly maintained for equipment such as camera and mobile phones purchased in 2010.
As a result, equipment provided for use by staff was not recovered when the employees left the office.
In addition, the Tourism Ministry did not maintain a detailed income registry with reference numbers and dates as required by the public finance regulations. The regulations require that the registry must be routinely shared with the Finance Ministry.
“However, inquiries for the Ministry of Tourism’s 2011 audit revealed that such a record [of income] was not prepared and maintained,” the audit report stated. “As a result, we note that it could not be confirmed whether the incomes due to the ministry was received in full.”
Offices and departments under the Tourism Ministry
The audit report noted that the Tourism Ministry’s audit for 2011 was conducted without any documentations or financial records from the Department of Information (DOI) operating under the ministry.
Repeated requests for documents from the department went unheeded, the report stated, adding that the financial statement of the DOI was not provided for the 2010 audit either.
On Monday (November 26), the President’s Office announced that the DOI has been abolished as new institutions formed by the 2008 constitutions carries out the functions previously performed by the department.
“Following this change, registration of media; formulating policies and facilitating the development of local media; creating the official Maldives’ calendar; maintaining the registry of journalists and writers; and, representing the Maldives internationally in the press field will be carried out by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture. Information to international media on local events will be given by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” the President’s Office stated.
Meanwhile, concerning the other offices operating under the ministry, the audit found that employees of the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) were paid overtime salaries in violation of the civil service regulations for calculating overtime.
The audit also noted that clothing allowance was paid to all employees in January 2011 in anticipation of overseas trips to attend tourism fairs. However, the allowance was not recovered from two staff at MTPB who did not travel abroad during the year.
An audit of the National Centre for the Arts (NCA) meanwhile revealed that MVR 24,735 (US$1,604) was spent out of the budget on tickets for a lecturer and his family for a “one-day creative writing workshop” on November 19, 2011.
However, an official agreement was not signed between the lecturer and the NCA and there was no documentation at the centre regarding the workshop.
The NCA also spent MVR 33,000 (US$2,140) during a ten-day period on food for 20 staff working on a “Male’ Art Festival” in excess of the approved rate in the public finance regulations. Catering was also arranged without a public announcement after seeking quotations from only two parties, the audit found.
A total of MVR 19,750 (US$1,280) was spent on catering for seven events organised by the NCA in 2010 without seeking quotations from more than one party.
The catering contract was awarded to a particular party at a rate of MVR 50 per person while the public finance regulations specify a rate of MVR 40 per person.
Aside from a note from NCA and catering bills, the audit report noted that no other documentation for the transactions could be found at the NCA.