President’s Office spent MVR30 million in excess of approved budget in 2011, audit reveals

The President’s Office (PO) spent MVR30.6 million (US$1.9 million) in excess of the approved budget in 2011 while MVR2.8 million (US$181,582) was used to cover expenses that were not directly related to the office’s mandate, the PO’s audit report (Dhivehi) has revealed.

Among the unrelated expenses were MVR1.8 million (US$116,731) spent on trips by former President Mohamed Nasheed to 88 islands ahead of the February 2011 local council elections, MVR904,855 (US$58,680) spent for then-Vice President Dr Mohamed Waheed to stopover in Singapore after attending the “Third Symposium on the European Academic Space” in Italy, and MVR139,676 (US$9,058) spent on a trip by the PO to check progress on the editing of ‘The Island President’ documentary.

While MVR526,454 (US$34,140) was spent for two trips to the United States by the vice president and his family, the report made public yesterday noted that there were no details of expenditure for MVR364,267 (US$23,623) of that amount.

Moreover, MVR235,556 (US$15,276) was spent out of the vice presidential residence’s budget for the vice president, his wife, child, and father to make the Hajj pilgrimage, but there were no details of expenditure for MVR60,524 (US$3,925) spent on food and accommodation.

“And while MVR69,112 (US$4,481) was spent for medical treatment during a trip by the vice president and his wife to Singapore in 2011, no documentation concerning the medical treatment was submitted,” the report stated.

Similarly, the report noted that MVR462,326 (US$29,982) was spent to cover the medical expenses of the president’s family in 2011, but were no documents related to the medical expenses.

A total of MVR677,369  (US$43,927) was meanwhile spent in 2011 on holidays for the president’s family, the report revealed.

Auditors also found that the PO paid mobile phone bills for political appointees out of the office’s budget in the absence of either a ceiling limit or rules to determine whether the calls were made for official purposes.

While MVR187,397 (US$12,152) was loaned from the PO budget to political appointees for personal expenses, auditors found that MVR184,191 (US$11,944) had not been repaid.

Moreover, MVR51,669 (US$3,350) was spent out of the vice presidential residence’s budget to pay mobile bills of the vice president’s wife, Madam Ilham Hussain, in contravention of the law governing privileges and state benefits for the vice president.

While the law stipulates that security for the vice president and his family must be arranged by the Ministry of Defence and National Security, auditors found that travel expenses for bodyguards during unofficial overseas trips by the vice president and his wife were settled out of the vice presidential residence, Hilaaleege’s budget.

Among other cases flagged in the report, auditors found that the PO had to pay MVR555,808 (US$36,044) as compensation to Shady Cabin after screws and sponges from 170 rented chairs went missing. The chairs were rented for the SAARC summit held in Addu City in November 2011.

The PO also covered expenses for foreign dignitaries out of its budget in the absence of rules for hospitality, the report noted.

Auditors found that MVR294,037 (US$19,068) was spent out of the presidential residence Muleeage’s budget for the stay of two British citizens from February 16 to 23.

Moreover, MVR29,058 (US$1,884) was spent out of the Muleeage budget for the “son of the president of a neighbouring country” to stay in a resort.

Auditors also discovered that there were 25 cable TV decoders in Muleeage and 12 decoders in Hilaaleege, for which MVR174,080 (US$11,289) and MVR81,917 (US$5,312) respectively was spent in 2011.

Lastly, auditors found that the PO did not maintain inventory records in accordance with public finance regulations. Plots of land and buildings under the care of the official residences of the president and vice president as well as fittings, furniture, and vehicles were not valued and included in the asset register.


MVR 312,928 on phone expenses “not unreasonable”: former Environment Minister

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.”

Audit report

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.