Over 100 police bicycles unassembled in warehouse: audit

Over 100 bicycles purchased for police use in 2009 were left unassembled in a warehouse, according to the audit report of the Ministry of Home Affairs for 2010 made public last week. The report flagged several cases of illegal and wasteful expenditure by the Maldives Police Service (MPS).

The audit found that 500 bicycles were procured in 2009 for MVR1.4 million (US$90,791) and paid for in 2010, while the required funds were not allocated for the vehicles in either the 2009 or 2010 police budgets approved by parliament.

“Of the purchased bicycles, 300 were sent to police stations in the atolls,” the report stated. “When [the Auditor General’s Office] checked on 5 September, 2011 to see if the 200 bicycles that should be in Male’ were there, it was discovered that 111 bicycles were kept in boxes in various warehouses while 89 assembled bicycles were left unused in warehouses.”

It added that six of 10 bicycles sent to Haa Dhaal Kulhudhufushi were also left unassembled.

Since the bicycles were left unused in warehouses, the audit concluded that “it could not be considered that these 500 bicycles were bought for police use,” adding that the expenditure was “wasteful” as the funds could have been used for other purposes.

The Auditor General therefore recommended putting the bicycles to use and holding those responsible for the procurement accountable under articles 47 and 48 of the Public Finance Act for violation of the law.

On March 30, 2010, police unveiled a new fleet of bicycles to be used for patrols as part of the previous administration’s plans to achieve carbon neutrality.

Following the publication of the audit report last week, a police spokesperson told local media that the bicycles would be used in the future.

The police media official noted that bicycles were used for patrols during November’s SAARC summit in Addu City.

Violations of public finance law

Among other cases highlighted in the report, the audit found that a private company was hired to construct a nine-storey building at the police Iskandharu Koshi compound for MVR67.2 million (US$4.4 million) on July 19, 2006 – without a publicly announced bidding process through the tender board.

The contract was awarded under the administration of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The audit found that the company was paid MVR92.7 million (US$6 million) for the work, 37.87 percent in excess of the agreed upon sum.

The report noted that that the payment was in violation of public finance regulations, which stipulates that additional payments should not exceed 10 percent of the contracted amount.

Moreover, while the contracted period for the construction work was 18 months, the audit found that the Maldives Police Service approved an extension of a further 35 months.

The audit concluded that the extension was dubious and that police were culpable for the long delay.

The Auditor General therefore recommended that the responsible officials be held accountable and that the case should be further investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

Moreover, also in 2008, a private company was contracted to build the police tow yard for MVR995,103 (US$64,533) without a public bidding process, which is required for government contracts exceeding MVR25,000 (US$1,621).

The audit also discovered that MVR1.6 million (US$103,761) was paid to contractors in violation of public finance regulations requiring approval from the President’s Office.

In August 2010, the audit found, police paid MVR80,000 (US$5,188) to a chief inspector as compensation for his damaged motorcycle, which was set on fire on August 2. The police executive board approved the payment as the price of the damaged motorcycle.

However, auditors found that the documents submitted by the chief inspector in seeking compensation were fraudulent, as the police report of the incident and photos showed that the damage was not extensive.

Moreover, auditors discovered that annual fees for the damaged cycle continued to be paid after the arson incident.

The Auditor General therefore recommended that the case should be investigated by the ACC.

The report further noted that MVR180,400 (US$11,699) was spent out of the budget in 2009 and 2010 for the police sports club while such expenses are explicitly prohibited by section 4.03(b) of the public finance regulations.

Scrutinising expenses out of the police welfare budget, the audit found that cash and tickets were provided for police officers to seek medical treatment overseas without the requisite doctor’s letter and recommendation form by the police medical service.

A senior police official was given US$1,200 out of the welfare budget for accommodation and food for medical treatment overseas, the report noted.

The report criticised the police regulations that allows senior officials to claim over US$1,000 for treatment overseas while lower-ranking officers were provided smaller amounts.

Meanwhile, as a result of delayed payment of utility bills, the audit found that police incurred MVR43,803 (US$2,840) as fines in 2010.

Lastly, the report noted that according to the Finance Ministry’s ledger, the Maldives Police Service spent MVR73 million (US$4.7 million) in excess of the approved budget of MVR627.7 million (US$40.7 million) for 2010.


CSC suspends five senior DPRS officials for disclosing information

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has suspended five high-ranking officials of the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation (DPRS), pending an investigation into alleged multiple violations of the Civil Service Act by disclosing official information at a press conference.

CSC Chair Mohamed Fahmy Hassan confirmed that the Home Ministry was informed of the decision today.

DPRS Director Saud Abdul Kareem, Deputy Director Hassan Waheed, Assistant Superintendent Mohamed Asif, Asseyri Jail Senior Prison Officer Mohamed Tholal and Maafushi Jail Senior Prison Officer Ibrahim Nashid organised a press conference in their “personal capacity” on Sunday at the Trader’s Hotel.

The senior officials reportedly defended State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem, who is currently in charge of the department. The DRPS officials refuted claims in a petition submitted to the Home Minister alleging misconduct and abuses of power by Naeem.

In the petition, which was not signed ostensibly over fears of job security, Naeem was accused of using state vehicles for personal use and accompanying government officials and MPs on visits to jails.

The DPRS senior staff however claimed that department employees were not involved in drafting or submitting the petition, suggesting a hidden agenda behind the petition.

Local media reported this week that a complaint had been filed at the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) alleging that Naeem did not sign the attendance books either during his time at North Central Province Office or currently at the DPRS.

Meanwhile at Sunday’s press conference, DPRS Director Saud also defended Naeem from serious issues flagged in a compliance audit report recently made public by the CSC. Saud argued that the problems identified in the report dated from before Naeem took over from former Director General Mohamed Rasheed.

Based on the findings of the compliance audit, Rasheed was given a three-month notice and suspended by the CSC pending an investigation.

The senior officials revealed at the press conference that complaints of corruption under Rasheed were lodged at the Human Rights Commission, CSC and ACC.

A day after the press conference, the CSC issued a press statement noting that according to article 28(b) of the Civil Service Act a civil servant could not disclose information about the office or its employees learned in his or her official capacity.

The statement noted that civil service regulations specified procedures for civil servants to file complaints of legal violations or abuse of authority at the CSC.

Moreover, clause 17(a) of the regulations “stated in clear language that employees could not attend to personal matters during official hours.”

“If an employee is dissatisfied regarding a matter in his area of work, it must be solved in the way the regulations specify,” the CSC statement reads.

In addition, clause 26(g) of the regulations states that civil servants shall not defend the interests of a political appointee.

The statement contended that the press conference, which took place during official hours, was held in violation of both the Civil Service Act and civil servant’s code of conduct as well as “principles of a democratic society”.


Compliance audit report flags corruption at DPRS

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has flagged corrupt practices and a poor working environment in the compliance audit report of the Department of Penitentiary and Rehabilitation Services (DPRS) released last week.

The report was compiled between December 22, 2010 and January 10 this year to ascertain the level of compliance with civil service laws and regulations as well as the code of conduct. The DPRS report is the second compliance audit report to be made public following the Islamic Ministry’s report.

The report identified 46 problems in 16 areas that needed to be reformed, including alleged abuse of lower-ranked employees by senior officials, use of office vessels for personal use and salaries paid out to staff on holiday.

“We note that the department’s vehicles and sea vessels are used for personal purposes,” it reads. “The speedboat used at Maafushi jail sometimes comes to Male’, is not sent back for a whole day and is used to carry employees’ goods.”

Some employees meanwhile complained of sexual abuse, the report noted, “however nothing of the sort can be seen from the records. And we note that a mechanism to record such matters has not been established.”

Due to a lack of coordination between the human resources section and the budget section, the report found that salary payments were made to dismissed staff, employees on no-pay leave and employees with poor attendance.

The CSC noted that additional amounts paid out with the salary were deducted without “revealing details of the accounts and making the required amendments to the documents.”

“As a result, it is not possible to determine for what reason the amounts were deducted,” it states.

The report found that on occasion employees were not paid for overtime hours while senior employees filled out a slip to show that they arrived at the office on time after coming late.

Moreover, some employees at Maafushi jail were paid risk allowance after they were transferred to the main office at Male’. Conversely, employees transferred to the jail were not paid a risk allowance.

Employees also took longer than the one-hour lunch break during working hours and “going out to tea during official hours was common.” Some employees were paid salaries during official leave in violation of civil service regulations, it added.

The department “did not make adequate use” of over Rf400,000 allocated in the budget for training purposes.

“We note that employees are discriminated against in taking disciplinary measures,” the report observed, noting that records were not properly maintained.

The report also found that “a safe environment for staff has not been established at the Male’ jail.”

“The ladder that leads to the staff office is also used by inmates,” it noted.

DPRS staff and their responsibilities did not fit the administrative structure approved by the commission, it continued, and staff at Maafushi jail were also taking care of “administrative tasks, HR tasks, maintaining security at the jail, maintaining the jail office and cafeteria, carrying food, providing health treatment and performing as Imams at the staff mosque.”


First batch of convicts to be released next week

The first batch of 400 convicts offered “a second chance” will be released from prison next week, according to State Minister for Home Affairs Mohamed ‘Monaza’ Naeem.

Speaking at a press conference today, Naeem explained that the first batch would be released on August 9, 10 and 11 and each released inmate would be assigned a mentor under the national rehabilitation programme devised to reintegrate the convicts into society.

The inmates will have their sentences suspended for a period of three years by presidential prerogative to commute sentences under the Clemency Act of 2009. The convicts are to be released on condition that they do not re-offend within that time period along with compulsory participation in government-run rehabilitation and training programmes.

Naeem said that a coordinated effort involving police and other concerned authorities would be undertaken to supervise and monitor the released convicts while job placements had been secured for some in government companies.