The audit report of the Elections Commission (EC) for 2011 has flagged several expenses in violation of public finance law and regulations.
The report (Dhivehi) made public on Wednesday listed 20 cases of expenditure made by the EC ostensibly in violation of the Public Finance Act and regulations under the law.
Of MVR 19.2 million (US$123,216) sent by the commission to atoll offices for the local council elections in February 2011, the audit found that MVR 1.4 million (US$90,791) was entered into the EC’s financial statement despite not receiving either confirmation or details of the how the funds were spent.
Moreover, while a contract was awarded to a local company for MVR 4.9 million (US$317,769) to print ballot papers following a public announcement by the EC, the audit noted that the commission did not propose it to the tender evaluation board as required for projects exceeding MVR 1.5 million (US$97,276).
The audit also uncovered that the commission paid MVR334,700 (US$21,705) to a company contracted to provide sea transportation during the council elections, for trips not included in the agreement.
While MVR 536,803 (US$34,812) was agreed upon in the contract for 56 trips, the EC ended up paying the company MVR871,503 (US$56,517) due to a number of additional trips.
Agreements made with private parties to hire temporary staff as well as vehicles for use during the council elections could not be found among the EC’s documents, the audit report noted.
A total of MVR 183,238 (US11,883) was however paid for vehicles and short-term staff for the elections in February 2011.
The audit meanwhile could not verify whether deposits from 91 candidates for the council elections, who either received less than 10 percent of the vote or whose candidacies were invalidated, were entered into the state income account.
Based on documentation at the EC, the audit was also unable to verify whether deposits for 1,254 candidates were ever returned.
Among the other cases highlighted in the report, the audit discovered that commission members spent extra days overseas during official trips to attend seminars and workshops.
The cost of the extended stays during such trips between January 2010 and April 2012 amounted to MVR50,438 (US$3,270) for food, incidentals and pocket money.
The audit also found that commission members transferred phone credit worth MVR5,585 (US$362) from their mobile phones, the bills for which are paid out of the EC budget.
An examination of international calls by commission members showed that a number of such calls were not related to official business.
The audit further revealed that from April 2010 to April 2012, MVR 92,009 (US$5,967) was spent out of the EC budget to pay mobile phone bills of commission members.
A total of MVR 116,954 (US$7,584) was meanwhile paid to EC employees as phone allowances in 2011.
The audit discovered that between December 2007 and August 2011, the commission spent MVR 248,790 (US$16,134) to buy 30 mobile phones for senior staff.
Based on a decision by the former Elections Commissioner in December 2007, 13 phones were to become personal property of the chosen senior staff after one year, the audit revealed.
“We note however that no law or regulation authorises giving away state property,” the report stated.
Moreover, most of the mobile phones were “the most expensive phones on the market at the time [of the purchases],” the audit report noted.
“In addition to the 13 mobile phones that were given to employees according to documentation at the commission, the records showed that five mobile phones worth MVR 49,135 (US$3,186) were lost,” the report stated, adding that no employees were held responsible and “compensation in any form was not sought” for the losses.
Some of the phones were discovered missing when “commission employees who were given the phones informed auditors that they were lost.”
A senior staff given a mobile phone worth MVR 14,195 (US$920) bought in 2008 did not return it when he or she left the commission, the audit noted, adding that corrective measures had not been taken on the issue despite recommendations in the EC’s 2010 audit report.
The audit found that the EC did not sign agreements for work valued under MVR25,000 (US$1,621), despite public finance regulations stating that agreements must be signed for all government projects.
A total of MVR 249,494 (US$16,179) was paid out in 2011 without formal agreements.
The EC also hired a local company to service four photocopy machines for MVR40,000 (US$2,594) a year without a public bidding process and made an advance payment in violation of public finance regulations.
The audit noted that documentation did not show that the EC was receiving the company’s services each month as stipulated in the agreement.
Moreover, the commission did not seek quotations or estimates from three parties as required by regulations for procurements amounting to MVR 251,148 (US$16,287) in 2011, the audit discovered.
A number of expenses were meanwhile made out of the wrong budget code or item, the audit noted.
The audit report also noted that the EC made unnecessary purchases, such as a coffee maker for MVR 67,000 (US$4,345) in 2007, a Nikon D200 camera for MVR 233,298 (US$15,129) in 2008, six TV decoders, 16 TVs, 16 shredders, two washing machines, irons, a deep freezer, a mixer, a blender and a gas cooker.
Of 60 fax machines bought by the commission, 50 were kept unused in storage.
Moreover, items worth MVR 231,193 (US$14,993) were not entered into the registry of the EC’s stock inventory, the audit report noted.
The EC meanwhile failed to collect MVR 469,500 (US$30,447) owed as fines and deposits in 2011 and did not file cases at court as required by regulations.
As of December 2011, the audit revealed that the commission was owed MVR 260,000 (US$16,861) from seven political parties for failing to submit annual audit reports during the past five years.
Lastly, as of the report’s publication, the EC had not recovered MVR 12,999 (US$843) paid to staff in excess of their salaries and allowances.