Former Minister of Housing and Environment Mohamed Aslam has claimed the MVR 312,928 (US$ 20,254) spent from the Ministry’s budget on his mobile phone expenses between June 2009 and August 2011 was not “unreasonable”.
The findings, part of an audit report on the Housing and Environment Ministry for 2011, also show that MVR 25,200 was spent by the ministry on a staff breakfast function held during Ramadan in 2010, local media reported.
Aslan’s phone expenses, as revealed by the audit report, equate to MVR 12,035 (US$ 779) per month for the 26 months between June 2009 and August 2011.
The former Minister told Minivan News today (January 17) that his phone bills were so high due to his position requiring him to “frequently” leave the country.
“I happened to be the minister who travelled most frequently and there have been times where I have been out of the country for weeks at a time.
“On those occasions I had to take calls from overseas, I had to answer them and roaming is very expensive. In that regard, the total cost was not unreasonable,” Aslan claimed.
The former minister alleged that the foreign minister, who was the person who travelled “almost” as much, would have similar phone bills.
Aslan claimed that ministry staff had “told” him to change his billing address and kept on paying the phone bills.
“It was never brought to anyone’s attention that it was illegal. When the bill is to be paid the ministry sends a voucher to the Ministry of Finance and they pay it.
“There is a budget for phone expenses. When it came to my attention [that the phone bills were high] I tried to reduce the amount of calls I would take,” Aslan said.
When asked whether he used a different phone for personal calls, the former minister stated: “I only ever carried one phone.”
The audit report of the housing and environment ministry for 2011 further states that the amount of MVR 25,200 (US$1364) was spent on a staff break-fast function held during Ramadan of 2010, local media reported.
The money spent on the function came from budgets allocated to ministry meetings and seminars, the audit report noted.
“We advise that no expense be made in contradiction to the State Financial Regulation. We also advise that that authorisation from the Ministry of Finance be sought, as stated in the State Financial Regulation point 4.06 (c), prior to making an expense that will directly benefit the staff,” the report stated according to local media.
The audit report further highlights that the ministry had spent a total of MVR 501 million (US$32.4 million) in loans for projects not included in the parliament-approved budget.
The auditor general said that expenses not stated in the parliament-approved budget is a violation of the constitution, public finance act and the state financial regulation, recommending that action should be taken against parties responsible for the violations, local media reported.