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.


Former state ministers deny allegations in Home Ministry’s audit report

Two former state ministers for home affairs have denied allegations in the ministry’s audit report for 2010 that they were paid salaries for a year without attending the office, with one accusing the Auditor General of political bias.

The audit report released last week stated that the two political appointees were paid salaries and benefits, amounting to over MVR800,000 (US$51,880) from January to December 2010, while one was working at the Presidential Commission and the other at the Maldives Customs Service.

The two political appointees referred to in the report were Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed, a member of the Presidential Commission, and Mohamed Aswan, former principal collector of customs.

The report found that Aswan was paid January’s salary from both institutions.

“Although the two posts were created for the Ministry of Home Affairs, as the ministry did not receive any service from the two appointees, this office believes that the President’s Office’s creation of the two posts cannot be considered for the need of the ministry,” the report stated.

The audit report contended that the two appointees were paid salaries out of the Home Ministry’s budget in violation of budgetary rules, which had compromised the validity of the ministry’s financial statement.

Mohamed Aswan, presently commissioner general of customs, however issued a press statement on Thursday denying that he was paid salaries from both the Maldives Customs Service and Home Ministry in 2010.

Aswan explained that he was paid January’s salary from both offices due to “an administrative error” caused due to a delay in exchanging official documentation confirming the transfer.

He added that errors in processing salaries and benefits of government employees were commonplace and, once identified, were usually remedied with the necessary changes the following month.

Aswan also noted that the administrative task of paying salaries and benefits for political appointees was a responsibility of the permanent secretary, the highest-ranking civil servant in government offices.

In 2010, Aswan’s press release stated, he was simultaneously working in three government posts but received salaries and benefits only from the Home Ministry, which he did not believe was “against the law.”

In addition to acting head of customs at the time, Aswan was also a member of the Presidential Commission set up by former President Mohamed Nasheed to investigate allegations of embezzlement and misappropriation of state funds by the regime of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

Aswan was appointed state minister for home affairs in January 2010 to reform the police service following cabinet deliberations.

As a former National Security Service lieutenant, Aswan was the deputy in charge of Maafushi jail when 19-year old inmate Evan Naseem was beaten to death and several inmates shot to death in a subsequent prison riot in September 2003.

In July 2003, Aswan had filed a detailed report on systematic abuse and institutionalised torture in Maafushi jail, warning of “disastrous consequences” if corrective measures were not taken immediately.

“Political bias”

Sheikh-Hussain-Rasheed-AhmedWriting in his personal website, Sheikh Hussein Rasheed Ahmed, former co-chair of the Presidential Commission, meanwhile slammed Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim for “attempting to discredit the government toppled in a coup d’etat.”

The former president of the Adhaalath Party explained that he was appointed state minister to oversee and expedite investigations into rampant corruption alleged in over 30 audit reports by former Auditor General Ibrahim Naeem as “the relevant authorities were not adequately looking into the cases.”

Rasheed insisted that both he and Aswan attended the home ministry to carry out the tasks they were entrusted with by the President.

“The Presidential Commission was tied to the President’s Office and the Home Ministry,” he wrote. “When the commission completed the investigation stages, we were submitting reports to the President and relevant departments under the Home Ministry. In addition to the President’s Office, we also provided information to the Anti-Corruption Commission.”

Arguing that the current Auditor General made no effort to ascertain the work done by the pair at the Home Ministry, Rasheed accused Niyaz of “working in your own defence” and “trying to please the current government which is in place through a coup d’etat.”

Rasheed said that he sent his monthly attendance records to the President’s Office and kept the Home Minister informed of his work. Moreover, the permanent secretary was notified ahead of official leaves, Rasheed said, adding that “the Auditor General made no effort to obtain any of this information.”

“Are you unwilling to release an audit report on the double pension President Maumoon is taking illegally out of fear over a no-confidence motion [in parliament]?” Rasheed asked.

Rasheed further claimed that Niyaz attempted to intervene in the Presidential Commission’s investigation of the alleged US$800 million illegal oil trade carried out under the chairmanship of MP Abdulla Yameen at the State Trading Organisation (STO).

“Did you not try to get the documents [related to the case] first from the Anti-Corruption Commission?” Rasheed wrote. “When the Presidential Commission refused to provide you with the information, you even visited STO Singapore.”

Following these unsuccessful attempts, Rasheed alleged that Auditor General Niyaz tried to obtain the documents through an audit of the President’s Office and the Presidential Commission, suggesting that the section in the Home Ministry’s audit report concerning his salary was “retaliation” by the Auditor General.

The audit report of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 2010 made public in July was similarly slammed by former Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed as “politically motivated and phrased to mislead the public.”