Parliament approves MVR46million budget for audit office

Parliament today approved an annual budget of MVR46 million (US$2.9 million) for the Auditor General’s Office for 2015 as recommended by the public accounts committee (PAC).

The PAC’s report was approved unanimously with 64 votes in favour.

While the audit office had requested a MVR93 million (US$6 million) budget, the Ministry of Finance and Treasury advised the public finance oversight committee that the audit office’s annual expenses would not exceed MVR46 million.

The finance ministry pledged to provide additional funds out of the contingency budget if the audit office’s functioning was affected by budget restrictions.

The Auditor General’s Office had requested allocations of funds for the construction of an office in Hulhumalé. However, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told the committee of plans for a building to house all independent institutions.


Audit Office’s state budget increased by MVR 14 million

The Audit Office’s state budget has been increased by MVR 14 million, following approval by Parliament’s Public Finance Committee.

This year the Audit Office was approved a budget of MVR 57.8 million by the committee, as opposed to last year’s budget of MVR 44.5 million.

According to a member of the committee, the budget of MVR 57.8 million, as proposed by the Audit Office, was passed after thorough assessment by the Sub-Committee, and due to the importance of the work carried out by the Audit Office.

Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim said that the budget had to be increased to facilitate the recruitment of 43 additional employees to the office.

From the MVR 57.8 million, MVR 54 million has been assigned as recurrent expenditure and MVR3.8 million as capital expenditure.


Health ministry audit reveals Rf11.8 million (US$761,290) fraud

A local company charged with procuring medical consumables and laboratory equipment for Malé and regional hospitals has defrauded the health ministry out of Rf 11.8 million (US$ 761, 290), an audit report has revealed.

F- Tech Solutions Pvt. Ltd doctored invoices and delivery notes and forged signatures to collect payment on goods that have not been supplied to the health ministry to this day, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim claimed.

The company had only supplied Rf 930, 512 (US$ 60,033) worth of medical consumables and laboratory equipment to the government, the report said.

The tender evaluation board awarded the contract to F- Tech Solutions even though the company had no prior experience in supplying medical equipment, had lied about previously supplying medical equipment to the health ministry in bidding documents, and had no import licenses or permits from the Maldives Food and Drug Authority to distribute medical supplies, the report noted.

The Rf 12.8 million (US$ 831,169) contract was awarded to F-Tech in September 2010 against the Anti Corruption Commission’s (ACC) advice at the time. The ACC had raised concerns over F-Tech’s lack of necessary licenses and permits.

According to the report, the State Minister of Finance at the time opened a Local Letter of Credit facility (LC) worth the total contract amount for F-Tech Solutions at the State Bank of India (SBI). The Auditor General said the move contravened the Maldives Finance Act which states only 15 percent of total contract value can be paid out in advance.

Further, although the contract was made between F-Tech and the health ministry, the state minister for finance authorised finance ministry staff instead of health ministry staff to sign delivery notes, the report said.

Niyaz said the state minister’s decision to establish a LC facility “opened up the opportunity” for payments to be made for unsupplied goods and “weakened the state’s internal control mechanisms.”

A Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Finance and Treasury authorised payment to F-Tech without confirming receipt of goods with the health ministry, even though SBI had noted discrepancies between the invoices and delivery notes. Nine of the 21 invoices were issued a month before the date printed on delivery notes, the report said.

Moreover, the Health Ministry did not annul the contract with F- Tech Solutions as per the agreement even though the company had failed to supply medical equipment for the period October – December 2011.

Instead, the ministry had procured the consumables itself and told F- Tech the amount would be deducted from the total payment to the company. However, no such deduction took place.

Niyaz recommends filing fraud charges against F- Tech Solutions, and filing negligence charges against the Tender Evaluation Board, and relevant Health Ministry and Finance Ministry officials. The report does not name the accused.

Niyaz has asked the police to investigate the case on April 18.

Doctored invoices

The report, published on April 19, said F – Tech Solutions had forged signatures on delivery notes and invoices claiming goods had been supplied to the health ministry. Even on the instances goods were delivered, the prices listed for goods were much higher than that pledged in the contract.

“This office notes that F- Tech Solutions forged signatures on some delivery notes and invoices. Further, the health ministry, hospitals and health centers have not received any of the goods said to have been delivered on the delivery notes. While the health ministry’s supply department has received goods noted on one invoice, the prices noted on the invoice are extraordinarily higher than prices pledged in the contract document,” the report said.

Nine of the 21 delivery notes worth Rf 5,787,272 (US$ 373, 372) were signed by a health ministry procurement officer. However, “the procurement officer in a statement to the office said the signature on the delivery notes were not his, that he had not signed the delivery notes, and that he had not claimed said medical supplies.”

Further, the procurement officer noted he was not authorized to receive medical supplies on behalf of the health ministry, and had not done so previously.

Two of the 21 delivery notes worth Rf 4, 215,642 (US$ 271, 977) were signed by a health ministry staff that did not exist in the health ministry records. However, the name matched the nickname of the ministry staff, but the staff told the Audit Office he had not signed or received goods on behalf of the ministry.

On the instances F – Tech Solutions had supplied goods, the company defrauded the ministry of Rf 1,816,793 (US$ 117, 212). The company had claimed Rf 2,368,954 (US$ 152, 836) on goods that were only worth Rf 522,161 (US$ 33,687).

The Maldives Customs Services has confirmed that F – Tech Solutions has never imported medical consumables and laboratory equipment, the report said. The goods that were supplied to the health ministry were bought on credit from a separate private company.

Further, even though F – Tech had agreed to import Rf 12.8 million (US$ 831,169) worth of goods, the import license approved to the company from the Economic Ministry was only worth Rf 500,000 (US$ 32,258).

According to local media Haveeru, F – Tech’s six directors are: Managing Director: Mohamed Abdulla, Director of Operations: Abdulla Rashid, Director of Administrations: Abdulla Shafeeg, Director of Sales and Marketing: Ahuyad Hisaan, Director of Logistics: Rilwan Shareef, and Director of Human Resources: Fathimath Shiuna.

Of the six, Haveeru notes Shareef and Shiuna are prominent former ruling Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) activists.

The Supreme Court disqualified MP Ismail Abdul Hameed in February 2012 for authorising payment for goods before delivery while he was director at the Malé Municipalty in 2008. Hameed was sentenced to one year six months banishment.

Meanwhile, Deputy Speaker Ahmed Nazim was acquitted of four counts of fraud in February. The charges against Nazim concerned public procurement tenders of the former Atolls Ministry secured through fraudulent documents and paper companies.

MP ‘Redwave’ Ahmed Saleem was also cleared of corruption charges in February. The state has charged Saleem with the conspiracy to defraud the former Atolls Ministry in the purchase of the mosque sound systems.

In addition, the State Trading Organisation (STO) has withdrawn a a case worth more than a million US dollars lodged against Dhivehi Qaumee Party (DQP) MP Riyaz Rasheed’s Meridian Services Private limited. The case concerned an unpaid sum of money worth Rf 19,333,671.20 (US$1,253,804.88) regarding Meridian’s use of the STO’s credit facilities.