Large discrepancies in Transport Ministry’s financial records: audit report

Auditors have found large discrepancies between the financial records maintained by the Ministry of Transport and Communication and the general ledger kept by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury.

According to the Transport Ministry’s 2010 audit report, the ministry’s records show that a total of Rf26 million (US$1.7 million) was spent on purchasing  information technology hardware, while the Finance Ministry’s ledger for National Center for Information Technology had no record of the expense.

Meanwhile, income received as Driving Licence Insurance Fee was recorded in the Transport ministry’s books as Rf229,935 (US$14,911) more than the amount stated in the Finance ministry’s ledger while the total income received by the Transport Authority in 2012 was recorded as Rf2.3 million less in the ministry’s ledger.

The latter discrepancy occurred because the ministry had not updated their records with the income generated from ministry’s services provided in the atolls under the Decentralisation Act, the report said.

Furthermore, Rf47 million (US$3 million) allocated to three regional airports in 2010 were recorded as expenses in the ministry’s financial statements, although  auditors found a sum of Rf947,014 (US$61,500) remained unspent in the respective airport’s bank accounts.

Over Rf 600,000 (US$39,000) received as revenue to the Kadhoo Regional Airport between November 2008 and February 2010 was not deposited to the state’s consolidated revenue account, the report added, while  poor management of  airport’s invoices and records made it difficult for auditors to determine how much money is owed to different parties or supposed to be received as income.

Auditor General Ibrahim Niyaz observed in the report that the the ministry had not “identified and reconciled” the aforementioned discrepancies.

The ministry also did not compile its financial statement in accordance with ‘International Public Sector Accounting Standards’ (IPSAS) as stipulated by regulations under the Public Finance Act, and as a result lacked important information such as detailed disclosure notes, Niyaz added.

Therefore, Auditor General refrained from providing an opinion of the ministry’ financial statements and instructed to adjust the figures accordingly to remove discrepancies and compile it in accordance with IPSAS.

The report further noted that the ministry had purchased equipment without the stipulated bidding process and had assigned maintenance of traffic lights to a company prior to signing the contract, thereby violating public finance regulation.


Dhiraagu begins laying 1253 km of fibre optic cable

President Mohamed Nasheed inaugurated the cable laying of the Dhiraagu’s new fibre-optic submarine cable network in Haa Dhaalu Kulhudhufushi on Tuesday.

Dhiraagu described the US$21.7 million mega project signed with Japanese communications group NEC as the “back bone” of  Dhiraagu’s High-speed Network Rollout Program, aimed at expanding broadband service across the country.

NEC will be using its existing experience of working on the country’s cable system to lay 1253 kilometres of fibre optic submarine cable beneath the sea from the north to south, connecting the whole country.

According to Dhiraagu, the cable network will encompass  eight strategic locations including Kulhudhufushi (starting  point), Baa atoll Eydhafushi, Hulhumale’, Alif Dhaal atoll Dhangethi, Laamu atoll Gan, Gaaf Dhaal atoll Gahdhoo, Seenu atoll Hithadhoo and Fuvahmulah (ending point). Cable landing stations have been built.

“We are expecting to finish the cable laying process by the end of this month. Then we will continue testing the cable, connectivity and monitoring the traffic. We are hoping to complete the project by the second quarter of next year,” Dhiraagu’s Manager of Marketing Communications and Public Relations, Mohamed Mirshan Hassan, told Minivan News on Wednesday.

He highlighted that the project was a significant part of the Dhiraagu High-speed Network Rollout Program to expand broadband services, under which the company plans to enhance the microwave network, 3G service, wireless broadband services and upgrade the internet core network.

Dhiraagu plans to invest a total of about US$70 million on the project over the next five years.

According to Mirshan, the implementation of the project will mark a “new milestone” for the nation’s telecommunications.

“High-speed broadband internet service will facilitate services such as e-health, telemedicine, e-government and other online services in the country, which would bring immense socio-economic benefits,” said Mirshan. “Communication and connectivity is a prerequisite for the development of a nation,” he added.

He noted that online businesses and the tourism sector would benefit immensely from the project, as their online operations such as ticketing, bookings and payments would be become easier with the high speed network.

“The disparity in the services offered to remote islands will also be significantly reduced, allowing them to enjoy the same service packages currently offered in the capital Male’,” Mirshan added.

Speaking at the inauguration event on Tuesday, President  Nasheed said that the exchange of information was of extreme importance to national development.

The “slow speed of broadband internet in the country prevents full accessibility to telecommunications across the Maldives”, and often led to system failures, President said.

However, he believes Dhiraagu’s submarine cable project will bring significant improvements to the nation telecommunications, by “making the conveyance of information easier, better and speedier in the future”.


Journalists request participation in military operations

Senior officials at the Maldives National Defence Force have assured journalists that they would take steps to improve communication and transparency between the two groups.

Defence Minister Thalhath Ibrahim Kaleyfaan allegedly told journalists who attended a briefing at the armed forced headquarters today that the ministry would hold a training session to help journalists better report news involving military services, reports local media Haveeru.

Journalists were concerned over the lack of transparency at MNDF, and requested permission to participate in military operations, Haveeru reports.

The ministry said it would make arrangements following this request.


Cabinet passes regulation limiting ministers’ interactions with parliament

The cabinet has approved a new set of procedures governing its interactions with parliament.

“After discussing the draft Cabinet rules of procedure, the Cabinet passed relevant clauses for communications with the People’s Majlis,’’ said the president’s office in a statement last week.”

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed said the regulations “are quite important in terms of how the government will interact with parliament from now on. It draws a clear boundary.”

Referencing article 115 (f) of the Constitution, the new regulations state that a cabinet member can only be summoned to the parliament on mention of a the appropriate article in the constitution, and shall answer questions only during a parliament meeting.

Furthermore, cabinet ministers shall only answer to the parliament “if the cabinet minister is given the notice 14 days prior”,  and “shall only answer questions that the minister must according to the law on questioning ministers.”

Dhivehi Rayyithunge Party (DRP) Deputy Leader and MP Ali Waheed said the approved procedures were “against the spirit of the constitution” and would be void.

‘’Actually, parliament has yet to approve a cabinet. When a cabinet is established we will summon them to committee meetings as well –  ministers must appear before committees in the interest of the people – the constitution is very clear. Without doubt these new procedures are void – nobody can narrow the summoning of cabinet ministers to parliament.’’

However, Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Shifaz said that according to the constitution, the reality for cabinet ministers was very different.

“It does not say that the ministers have to be present at committees hearings – the constitution says that ministers should be answerable to the parliament inside the parliament chamber, not in the committees,’’ said Shifaz.

He said that the opposition still had to approve the cabinet, and that otherwise summoning them for questioning was an act against parliamentary system.

‘’It is not the people who the opposition wish that should be in the president’s cabinet, it should be people appointed by the president,’’ he added.