Parliament removes its requirement to authorise government loans

Parliament passed amendments to the Public Finance Act today reversing changes brought to the law in 2010 requiring parliamentary approval for obtaining loans, providing sovereign guarantees, and leasing or selling state assets.

During the final debate at today’s sitting of the People’s Majlis, opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ibrahim Mohamed Solih said he believed the government should have “the power and discretion” to obtain loans and conduct its programmes.

However, the MDP parliamentary group leader objected to scrapping a provision in the public finance law that prohibits expenditures in excess of funds allocated in the annual budget.

If Article 34(b) is abolished, Solih said the finance minister would not have to ensure that spending was in line with the budget approved by parliament.

If MVR800 million (US$51.8 million) was allocated to the police, Solih explained that the finance minister could approve MVR1 billion (US$64.8 million) for the institution.

“The purpose of passing the budget would be completely lost if this article is abolished,” he said.

Following the debate, the government-sponsored amendments (Dhivehi) were passed with 41 votes in favour, 25 votes against, and one abstention.

While Jumhooree Party MP Hussain Mohamed proposed adding clauses to require the government to provide information concerning loans and financial assistance to parliament within 45 days, neither amendment passed after pro-government MPs voted against the proposals.

The MP for Mathiveri had argued that the current law would not hamper the daily functions of the government as a decision to take a loan or provide a sovereign guarantee would not be made “one morning at the office”.

On the issue of delays in securing parliamentary approval, Hussain noted that the economic affairs committee completed its review of the amendments in two and a half hours.

“So what is the delay here? [The amendments] will be passed today. It has probably been just a week since it was submitted,” he said, noting that pro-government MPs were in the majority.

He further urged pro-government MPs to read Majlis minutes from 2010 to see how then-opposition leaders spoke in favour of the amendments.

Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) MP Jameel Usman meanwhile said parliament unduly assuming executive powers would pose difficulties in providing services to the public.

“Our responsibility should not be stopping things but monitoring,” he said.


Last week, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad told parliament’s economic affairs committee that the government faced serious difficulties due to the requirement to seek parliamentary approval before obtaining loans.

Similar requirements did not exist in any other country, he added.

Jihad referred to a loan obtained from the Bank of Maldives during President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration without parliamentary approval as Majlis was in recess at the time and the funds were needed to pay salaries of government employees.

In December 2013, the Auditor General’s Office revealed that President Waheed’s administration violated finance laws in securing a domestic loan worth MVR300 million (US$ 19.45 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) for budget support.

Meanwhile, in May, President Abdulla Yameen suggested that the requirements of the public finance law were hampering the functioning of the executive.

The government was forced to seek parliamentary approval “even for a MVR1,000 (US$65) loan,” he said.

Yameen contended that laws imposing “various restrictions” on the executive were passed by the previous People’s Majlis due to the “irresponsibility” of the former head of government.

The passage of the amendments in 2010 prompted the en masse resignation of former President Mohamed Nasheed’s cabinet on June 29, 2010 in protest of the opposition’s alleged obstruction and “scorched earth” policy.

While former Special Majlis MP Ibrahim Ismail ‘Ibra’ characterised the amendments as the “grand finale of decimating the executive,” the Nasheed administration filed a case at the Supreme Court contesting the constitutionality of some provisions.

Yameen, who was leader of the minority opposition People’s Alliance at the time, said Nasheed’s “selling off of state assets and giving up uninhabited islands” had prompted the opposition’s actions.

“When many such actions that were harmful to the public occurred, a group of people advocating as the people’s representatives – myself included – determined things that cannot be done without a say of the parliament and passed a law called the Public Finance Act to hold the government accountable,” he had said in May.

Following the controversial transfer of power in February 2012, the new administration – made up of former opposition parties – sought to reverse the restrictions concerning the sale and lease of state properties.

Related to this story

Finance Ministry’s MVR 300 million budget-support loan “illegal”

Cabinet resigns in protest over opposition MPs “scorched earth” politics

Government hampered by “restrictive” public finance law, says President Yameen


ACC spent MVR3 million in excess of approved budget, reveals audit

The Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) spent MVR3.5 million (US$226,978) in excess of the annual budget approved by parliament, the commission’s audit report for 2013 has revealed.

“The overspent amount was facilitated by a budget extension of MVR3,605,647 made to the commission by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury,” explained the report released last week.

“However, it was observed that the parliamentary approval for this budget extension was not obtained as per clause 32(e) of the Public Finance Act.”

The report noted that the ACC Act stipulates that the finance ministry should provide the commission’s budget in accordance with the annual budget passed by parliament.

As a result of “the significance of the matter”, the Auditor General’s Office concluded that the ACC’s expenditures in 2013 were not made “in all material respects, for the achievement of its objectives and for the purposes intended in the budget” and in line with public finance law.

“Extending the budget of the commission by the Ministry of Finance and Treasury without the approval of the parliament negates the objective of approving the budget of public institutions by the parliament as set out in enabling laws of the former,” the report stated.

“It also creates the risk of spending over and above the budget set for the public institutions that could consequently increase the budget deficit.”

In early August, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad revealed that the government was facing “great difficulty in managing the budget deficit” due to shortfalls in anticipated revenue.

The ballooning budget deficit – which Jihad warned could reach MVR4 million (US$260,000) or 10.6 percent of GDP – could affect the government’s ability to pay civil servants, the finance minister had said.

A budget deficit of MVR1.3 million (US$84,306) had been projected in the record MVR17.96 billion budget approved by parliament for this year.

Meanwhile, auditors also found that the ACC renewed an office cleaning contract in violation of public finance regulations.

A contract with its previous cleaner was renewed on September 8, 2013 for a monthly fee of MVR7,420 (US$481).

“This contract was made without obtaining and evaluating estimates from competing vendors,” the report noted.

“According to the commission, seeking new estimates may have increased their cleaning costs.”

However, public finance regulations require estimates to be sought and evaluated from competing bidders for services costing between MVR25,000 (US$1,621) and MVR1.5 million (US$97,276).

“By not following the public finance regulation, the commission has no assurance that it is obtaining the best service at the lowest price.”


Majlis approves reintroducing car allowance for ministers

The People’s Majlis approved a revision to the state’s wage structure recommended by the public accounts committee (PAC) to reintroduce a discontinued car allowance for cabinet ministers.

The PAC report (Dhivehi) was passed with 58 votes in favour and 20 against.

On July 14, the PAC approved a request by President Abdulla Yameen to reintroduce the MVR6,500 (US$422) monthly salary for drivers of ministers’ cars as well as a MVR1,000 (US$65) allowance for petrol cost.

Parliament also granted an extension to an MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) overdraft facility provided to the State Electricity Company (STELCO) by the Bank of Maldives.

A recommendation by the PAC (Dhivehi) to extend the duration of the overdraft facility until March 2015 was passed unanimously with 80 votes in favour.

Parliamentary approval for the extension was required under the Public Finance Act.


Audit reports released in first quarter revealed illegal expenditure worth MVR2.2 billion

Audit reports released in the first quarter of 2014 reveal financial transactions worth MVR2.2 billion (US$142 million) were conducted illegally by state institutions and corporations, according to the quarterly report (Dhivehi) of the audit office made public yesterday (April 29).

In the 14 audit reports released between January and March, the auditor general recommended recovering MVR294 million (US$19 million) from the officials responsible for the illegal expenditure.

These included MVR256.9 million (US$16.6 million) worth of unpaid dividends owed by state-owned corporations, MVR1.2 million (US$77,821) paid out as allowances to soldiers studying in the Maldives and overseas in addition to their basic salary, MVR166,324 (US$10,786) owed by an atoll councillor for residing in the atoll house free of charge, MVR23,927 (US$1,551) spent on plane tickets for a minister, and several millions owed by the Works Corporation.

The 14 reports covered the financial years 2011 and 2012 for a number of government ministries and companies, including the Defence Ministry, Finance Ministry, Civil Aviation Ministry and the Works Corporation.

The quarterly report noted that the auditor general also recommended that the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) investigate several cases of alleged corruption and embezzlement flagged in the 14 audits, which uncovered 163 instances of illegal expenditure or violations of public finance regulations.

In an appearance on state broadcaster Television Maldives in January, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim asserted that releasing audit reports was “futile” as the accountability process has so far failed.

While the audit office’s role was to conduct audits and review financial statements, Niyaz noted that the office was not legally empowered to file cases at court to recover funds or hold officials accountable for lapses.

Niyaz insisted that there was no political motive behind the timing of damaging audit reports, noting that the audit office adheres to a timetable or schedule shared with a parliamentary committee.

He also assured the public that the audit office was free of undue influence from any state official.


Government owed over MVR250 million in unpaid dividends, audit reveals

The government is owed MVR256.9 million (US$16.6 million) in unpaid dividends from state-owned enterprises, the audit report of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury for 2012 has revealed.

In the report (Dhivehi) made public yesterday, Auditor General Niyaz Ibrahim recommended collecting the dividends within a period of one month.

The unpaid dividends include MVR5.1 million (US$330,739) owed by Island Aviation Services, MVR78.9 million (US$5.1 million) owed by the Malé Water and Sewerage Company, MVR167.8 million (US$10.8 million) owed by the State Trading Organisation (STO), and MVR5 million (US$324,24) owed by the Maldives Transport and Contracting Company (MTCC).

The auditor general also recommended regularly monitoring the finances of government-owned companies, seeking audited financial statements within six months of the end of the financial year, and collecting dividends without delay.

While the ministry was required to submit a consolidated financial statement for 2012 inclusive of the departments operating under its remit, the report noted that the ministry prepared separate statements for itself and the departments.

Moreover, the annual financial statements did not include details of loans and foreign aid, the report stated.

As the auditor general was therefore unable to offer his professional opinion on the financial statements for 2012, he recommended taking action against the responsible financial officer under articles 47 and 48 of the Public Finance Act for the lapse.

Highlighted cases

Among other issues flagged in the report, auditors found that the Finance Ministry spent MVR858.5 million (US$55.6 million) out of the budget code assigned for providing capital to government-owned corporations.

The funds were released in violation of the constitution, the Public Finance Act, and regulations under the law, the report stated.

Article 96(c) of the constitution states, “No supplementary expenditures shall be added to an approved budget without further approval by the People’s Majlis. Expenditures included in the budget shall be applied solely for the specified purpose.”

The funds earmarked for capital expenditures of government-owned corporations in the 2012 state budget was MVR30.4 million (US$1.9 million), the report noted.

Of the funds released as capital for government-owned companies, auditors discovered that MVR840.6 million (US$54.5 million) was used to pay salaries for board members and staff and to cover other recurrent expenditures.

The ministry’s actions defeated the purpose of allocating funds for specified expenditures in the budget, the report stated.

As state-owned enterprises were not required to comply with public finance regulations, the report warned that releasing the funds could be “wasteful” or “facilitate corruption” in the absence of a mechanism for holding senior officials of the companies accountable for expenses.

Moreover, falsely including such a large amount of money as capital expenditures in the annual financial statement was “a serious deception,” which casts doubt on validity of the statement, the report noted.

The auditor general recommended taking legal action against the officials responsible for authorising the release of funds to the state-owned enterprises, which included health corporations, utility companies, regional airport companies, the Bank of Maldives, the State Electricity Company, STO, MTCC, Aasandha, and Fuel Supply Maldives.

The auditor general also cautioned against corporatisation of government services without assessing feasibility and determining financial and administrative challenges.

Abuse of authority

In another case highlighted in the report, auditors were unable to verify whether MVR254,898 (US$16,530) worth of expenses for overseas trips by senior officials were made for state purposes.

The Finance Ministry refused to share documents related to the trips “despite repeated requests,” the report stated.

The auditor general recommended that the expenses should be further investigated by the Anti-Corruption Commission.

Auditors also discovered that the Finance Ministry purchased a number of items without a bidding process in violation of public finance regulations, which requires a public tender for procurement of items worth MVR25,000 (US$1,621) or higher.

The items included a Macbook Air, two coffee machines, an air-conditioner, eight computer systems, and one iPad.

Meanwhile, in November 2012, a senior project officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs was hired as a consultant for the Finance Ministry to formulate projects for a period of two months.

While an announcement seeking a consultant was made on November 18 and an employment contract was signed on November 21, auditors found that the consultant began working at the ministry on November 12.

Auditors could not find any documents showing that the consultant worked on the projects during the contract period.

Moreover, in December 2012, Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad asked the ministry’s human resource committee to create a post for a project designer at the minister’s bureau.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) was requested to create the post on December 24 despite misgivings of members on the human resource committee, the report stated.

When the job announcement for the ‘director project designing’ was made on December 27, the report noted that only one person applied for the post.

The interested candidate was the same individual previously hired as a consultant, the report revealed.

The unnamed individual was appointed to the post on January 28.

The auditor general recommended that the case should be investigated by the ACC as the hiring of the consultant constituted abuse of authority to benefit a third party.

Finance Minister Jihad – who was appointed to the post in February 2012 following the controversial transfer of presidential power – has meanwhile denied the allegations in local media.

Jihad told newspaper Haveeru that the project director post in question was a civil service job, over which he did not have hiring or firing powers.

“It is done in accordance with the rules by the relevant officials at the ministry. I don’t get involved in such matters. The auditor general releasing such a report is very irresponsible,” he was quoted as saying.

Jihad has also previously criticised the auditor general over a report released in December which concluded that an MVR300 million loan was secured in 2012 from the Bank of Maldives in violation of public finance laws.


Audit uncovers illegal expenditure by Works Corporation

The audit report of the Works Corporation Ltd (WCL) for 2011 has exposed allegedly corrupt practices at the 100 percent government-owned company.

In a press release issued with the report (Dhivehi), the Auditor General’s Office stated that its audit uncovered numerous violations of the law as well as “problems related to performance and governance.”

Since the corporation did not compile its financial statement for 2011, as mandated by its charter and the Company’s Act, the press release noted that auditors reviewed selected transactions of the WCL.

The WCL was created by the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed on March 25, 2009 to facilitate or carry out infrastructure projects.

Of the 34 projects awarded to the company in 2010 and 2011, the audit found that the government canceled 24 after the WCL failed to commence work.

“The government awarded the projects without adequate planning and without assessing the company’s capability to carry out the work,” the press release stated.

As the company had completed only one infrastructure project to date, the Auditor General’s Office suggested that the WCL had not served the purpose for which it was formed.

Managing director

Auditors discovered that the company’s managing director withdrew MVR180,000 (US$11,673), ostensibly to cover expenses for assisting the President’s Office in preparations for a ceremony held in Gulhifalhu.

While the company’s employees actively participated in the preparations, the report noted that the sum was withdrawn without any documentation proving the actual cost borne by the WCL.

Although the audit report did not identify the managing director, local media has revealed that the WCL MD in 2011 was Abdulla Javid ‘Jaa’, son-in-law of the then-ruling Maldivian Democratic Party’s (MDP) Chairperson ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik.

Auditors also found that MVR146,999 (US$9,533) was transferred to the MD’s personal bank account to purchase a “total station” containing special tools from Singapore’s Tepcon Posting Sales Pvt Ltd.

However, the company had received neither the tools nor the transferred amount as of the report’s publication date.

Moreover, the WCL did not recover 14 sheet piles provided in May 2011 to Heavy Load Maldives Pvt Ltd, which was owned by the MD’s father-in-law MP ‘Reeko’ Moosa.

The WCL’s staff informed auditors that the 40-feet sheet piles were released after the MD called the deputy manager at the company’s Thilafushi site and instructed him to do so.

The audit report revealed that on the orders of the MD the WCL also provided electricity from its Thilafushi site to the Yacht Tours Maldives’ site on the industrial island.

Yacht Tours Maldives – owned by MDP MP Abdulla Jabir – had not paid WCL for 37,376 units of electricity used from December 28, 2010 to October 1, 2012, the audit found.


The WCL awarded 12 projects worth MVR198.6 million (US$13 million) to various parties in violation of the company’s procurement rules, the audit found.

The company’s procurement procedures manual stated that contracts worth MVR1.5 million (US$97,276) or higher must be awarded through the Finance Ministry’s tender evaluation board.

However, the audit noted, the 12 projects were awarded without either a bidding process or the involvement of the tender evaluation board.

An Indian company – identified as MM Export Pvt Ltd – contracted to supply reinforcement boulders was paid MVR2.7 million (US$175,097) in violation of the procurement rules as well as the WCL’s agreement with the company.

In another instance, a Sri Lankan company named Sri Krithika International was paid in excess of the stipulated amount for supplying construction material after the company imported a higher volume than was agreed upon.

Moreover, the WCL failed to recover MVR1.7 million (US$110,246) paid to Design-built Solutions Pvt Ltd as an advance payment for the Noonu Velidhoo harbour project despite termination of the agreement after the company did not commence work.

In a similar case, a company named Coastal Ventures Pvt Ltd was paid MVR5 million (US$324,254) for the construction of a harbour in Raa Fainu despite the company only completing a portion of the project.

As the portion completed by the company was worth MVR2.9 million (US$188,067), the audit noted that the company was paid MVR2.1 million (US$136,186) for work not done.

The report also contended that the WCL prioritised the interests of subcontractors in drafting agreements to the detriment of the company.

Auditors discovered that the company was owed MVR134,055 (US$8,694) in unpaid rentals and sale of equipment.

The WCL also misused a MVR50 million (US$3.2 million) stand-by credit facility provided by the Indian government to establish a sewerage system in Noonu Miladhoo and to construct a harbour in Noonu Kudafari.

Interest for the loan was rising as a result of the WCL failing to make regular payments, the report noted.

Meanwhile, as a result of poor record keeping, auditors were unable to ascertain the amount of money kept in the WCL safe when it was stolen in 2011.

While the company’s accounting systems showed that it was owed MVR22.5 million (US$1.5 million) from various parties, the audit report noted that the company’s financial book-keeping was too unreliable to establish the validity of the figure.

Similarly, auditors could not verify whether the MVR60.7 million (US$4 million) owed by the WCL for procurements and services was authentic.

The company also paid its chairman more than MVR600,000 (US$38,910) as a “special allowance” from June 2009 to February 2012 against the pay scheme for board members of state-owned enterprises.

Moreover, the company’s hiring and firing practices as well as promotions for staff contravened its “employment, benefits and salary policy.”

Lastly, the WCL had not maintained a registry of its assets since April 14, 2010, auditors found.


Finance Ministry’s MVR 300 million budget-support loan “illegal”

A report by the by the Auditor General has revealed that President Dr Mohamed Waheed’s administration violated finance laws in securing a domestic loan worth MVR300 million (US$ 19.45 million) from the Bank of Maldives (BML) as part of its budget-support program.

The report (dhivehi) – based on the audit published at the Auditor General’s (AG) website last Sunday – claimed then Finance Minister Abdulla Jihad had not obtained the required approval from the president and the parliament.

Jihad has hit back, claiming that the loan was taken to avoid financial disaster. He also suggested that the mandated processes for approving government loans had only been introduced to thwart the MDP government in 2010.

The audit was conducted following a request from the parliament’s Public Finance Committee, after opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Ahmed Sameer filed the matter at the committee in July 2012.

Section 5 of the Public Finance Act 2006 (as amended in 2010) states that any loan or credit facility which either the government or a government-owned corporation wishes to obtain, can be taken only after presidential and parliamentary approval.

The audit report stated that despite the legal requirement, Jihad – recently reappointed to the same position by the recently elected President Abdulla Yameen – had signed the letter of sanction on May 28, 2012, one day before the request for approval of the loan was sent to President Waheed.

According to the report, Jihad signed the final loan agreement with BML a day later on May 29, 2012.

A measure taken to prevent a financial disaster

In his defense, the Finance Minister has told local media that the loan was taken out of necessity, to prevent the state from financial disaster.

Jihad claimed that during May 2012, the government faced enormous difficulties following a decline in cash flow. By the end of the month in question, the government had almost exhausted its finances, said Jihad.

Furthermore, the minister claimed that he had consulted with President Waheed and decided to take the loan, but that the parliament had gone to recess.

“At that critical time, we had no other option. That was a measure that had to be taken in order to keep the state running. Hadn’t we done that, the state employees would not have been paid the month’s wages. We ought to consider the situation at the time. At that time we weren’t even able to obtain a loan from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA),” Jihad told Haveeru.

Blasting the current requirement of parliamentary approval before taking loans, Jihad claimed that no other modern democratic states followed such a practice. Because of the requirement, the government had lost several loans and had become a disgrace in front of most of the international financial organisations, Jihad added.

He also admitted that the amendment brought to the Public Finance Act in 2010 during the administration of former President Mohamed Nasheed was intended to disrupt the government’s functioning.

President Nasheed at the time had no choice but to ratify the amendment as his party was outnumbered when the vote was taken in parliament. The then-opposition now comprises most of the current governing coalition.

Jihad also criticized the AG’s report itself: “I am the Minister. But when the report was compiled, [Auditor General] had asked nothing from me. Of what had happened? So how can this report be accurate?”


The report also revealed that although the government had formally sought parliamentary approval of the loan on June 13, 2012, by this date the Finance Ministry had already withdrawn the first tranche – MVR200 million (US$ 12.97 million) out of the MVR300 million.

The government withdrew the remainder on June 20, 2012, the report stated.

Furthermore, the report claimed that in the letter sent to the president by Jihad, approval was sought for the loan with a request that it be made part of the US$65 million (MVR 1 billion) overseas loan that gained parliamentary approval as part of the 2012 national budget.

The report claimed that the conditions for the domestic loan from BML, and that of the proposed US$65 million overseas loan differed significantly.

Among the significant differences highlighted in the report, parliament had approved the US$65 million overseas loan with an interest rate of 2 percent while the BML loan had an interest rate of 9 percent subject to annual reviews.

Furthermore, repayment of the US$65 million loan was to commence within 10 years, while the BML loan required the repayment within just two years.

“Therefore, the loan of MVR300 million taken from the Bank of Maldives in the year 2012 had been taken without the approval of the parliament and the president, disregarding the decisions made by the legislature and the Public Finance Act,” concluded the report.

The Auditor General furthermore requested the authorities to take action against those found responsible for the misconduct.

The current government meanwhile has sought for the approval of a US$29 million (MVR 447 million) budget-support loan that is to be taken from the Bank of Ceylon, for the 2014 state budget.


Recommendations on 13 cases not implemented by Elections Commission: 2012 audit report

The Elections Commission (EC) has not followed through on recommendations of the Auditor General’s Office by taking corrective measures concerning 13 cases flagged in the commission’s audit reports for 2010 and 2011, according to the EC’s audit report for 2012.

The 2012 audit report (Dhivehi) made public on Thursday (June 27) listed 10 cases from 2011 and three cases from 2010 where the Auditor General’s recommendations to hold the responsible officials accountable for illegal expenses were not implemented.

Among the cases highlighted in the 2011 report were expenditure on overseas trips exceeding approved funds after commission members extended their stays, MVR 334,700 (US$21,705) paid to a company contracted to provide sea transportation during the 2011 local council elections for trips not included in the agreement and awarding a contract worth MVR 4.9 million (US$317,769) to a local company to print ballot papers without going through the tender evaluation board.

The 2011 audit revealed that the cost of the extending the duration of official overseas trips between January 2010 and April 2012 amounted to MVR50,438 (US$3,270) for food, incidentals and pocket money.

Other cases from 2011 included MVR 183,238 (US11,883) spent to hire temporary staff and vehicles during the council elections without formal agreements, not seeking quotations or estimates from three parties as required by regulations for procurements amounting to MVR 251,148 (US$16,287), failure to collect or file court cases to recover MVR 469,500 (US$30,447) owed as fines and deposits and MVR 12,999 (US$843) paid to staff in excess of their salaries and allowances.

The cases from 2010 meanwhile included MVR 248,790 (US$16,134) spent to buy 30 mobile phones for senior staff, 13 mobile phones given to select staff as personal property and a senior staff not returning a mobile phone worth MVR 14,195 (US$920) bought in 2008 when he or she left the commission

“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 2011 report stated, adding that no employees were held responsible and “compensation in any form was not sought” for the losses.

The 2012 report noted that of the 15 mobile phones given to staff, five have been returned to the commission while the price of one phone was reimbursed by the staff member.

While letters were sent in October 2012 asking staff to return the other nine phones, the audit report noted that the letters had not been replied to as of the report’s publication.

Moreover, of five phones believed to have been lost, the audit report noted that the EC was informed by staff that two were lost while the remaining three were unaccounted for.

Lastly, on a recommendation to identify how nine laptops were lost and to hold responsible staff accountable, the audit report noted that the EC sent letters to two employees in November 2012 without reply, after which no action was taken.

“On June 10, 2012, one employee to whom a laptop was given returned it to the commission’s stock. No action has been taken to seek compensation for the remaining six laptops,” the report stated.

The 2011 audit report had also revealed that the EC made a number of 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.

Meanwhile, among the cases flagged from the 2012 audit, the report noted that as of March 2013 the commission had not sought MVR 20,000 (US$1,297) owed by political parties in 2012 as fines for non-submission of annual financial statements.

The report noted that the commission has not taken any action concerning the non-payment of fines in addition to sending letters to the parties on August 5, 2012.

In a second case, the audit found that a director at the commission was given notice of termination of employment starting May 2, 2012. However, as the termination chit stated May 6 instead, “we note that the employee was paid MVR 2,468 as salary and allowances for four days for which the office did not receive the employee’s services.”


Nasheed welcomes scrutiny of MDP government finances, calls for ACC investigations

Former President Mohamed Nasheed has called for investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) into government spending during his administration flagged by the Auditor General’s Office as ostensible violations of the Public Finance Act.

Speaking at a campaign rally in the Henveiru ward of Male’ on Wednesday night (June 19), Nasheed said he accepted the findings of audit reports concerning public finances during the three years of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) government.

“We were the government that first started work with independent institutions in place. We were the government that had the good fortune of having been the target of audits by an independent Auditor General for the first time; and the government that had the opportunity to govern with the oversight of an independent Anti-Corruption Commission,” the MDP presidential candidate said.

“Our purpose, our wish, is for all government funds to be accounted for and for all expenditures to be transparent. I assure all citizens of the Maldives, I will not touch a single cent of your money,” he added.

Nasheed said he was pleased that of the MVR 31 billion (US$2 billion) spent by the MDP government from 2009 to 2011, the Auditor General’s Office only estimated that approximately six percent was “not spent in accordance with public finance regulations.”

“No one has said that [these expenses] involved corrupt dealings or facilitated corruption,” he stressed, calling for investigations by the ACC to determine whether corruption or misappropriation of funds had taken place.

Nasheed said he had studied all the audit reports of government ministries from 2009 to 2011 released by the Auditor General’s Office so far.

“What I want to note is that [expenditure] not being in line with public finance regulations does not mean corruption has taken place or that a criminal offence was committed,” he contended.

The Auditor General’s role was identifying expenditures made in breach of regulations, Nasheed explained, while the financial loss to the state as a result of the ostensibly illegal spending would be determined in light of investigations.

Taking examples of cases highlighted in audit reports, Nasheed referred to the purchase of five cars for government use flagged in the 2011 audit report of the finance ministry.

The audit report noted that a local company was contracted in December 2010 to buy five Nissan Sunny N16 Super Saloon cars for MVR 2.9 million (US$193,904).

However, the company delivered Nissan cars of the Ex Saloon model, the audit found.

“So what we have to find out is whether there was a difference in price between the two brands and which [brand] was cheaper,” Nasheed said.

The case reminded him of the Violet House group in Majeedhiyya School ordering a set of football boots when he was in school, Nasheed said.

“What they received was a set of key chain boots,” he said.

On the Auditor General discovering that the MDP government spent MVR 13.9 million (US$901,426) to train 259 participants of the ‘Hunaru’ skills programme, Nasheed said the programme was brought to a halt after the “coup d’etat” on February 7, 2012 and no further participants were trained despite being enrolled.

The initial spending included capital expenditures for the skills training programme, which targeted leading 8,500 youth to the job market, Nasheed noted.

While the Auditor General’s Office calculated that MVR 50,000 (US$3,242) on average was spent to train a single participant, Nasheed contended that if the programme had concluded successfully, “we estimated at the time that the Hunaru programme could be conducted for about MVR 7,000 or MVR 8,000 per participant.”

On MVR 8.1 million (US$525,291) worth of unpaid bills in the aviation sector owed to the government, Nasheed called on the Auditor General’s Office to forward the case to the ACC for further investigation and to recover the outstanding payments.

“The national administration office of the North [Province] made illegal expenditures for travel [according to the audit report],” Nasheed continued “In this case, if these trips were made in violation of the regulations, we want it to be stopped and for those who do it – even if they were under our government – to receive the just punishment.”

Referring to the Auditor General alleging illegal expenditures for the November 2011 SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) in Addu City, Nasheed said the party wished to determine the nature of the expenses in question.

“I can certainly see the convention center built there, the roads laid in Hithadhoo and the water and sewerage systems as well as the harbour there,” Nasheed said, contending that the costs would not exceed the “concrete work” that was done.

However, he added, if the Auditor General believes there were instances of illegal spending for the SAARC summit, the cases should be properly investigated.

On MVR 168.4 million (US$10.9 million) worth of unpaid expatriate work permit fees owed to the government, Nasheed said the oversight was “worrying” and called for the Prosecutor General’s Office (PGO) to file court cases to recover the outstanding payments.

The former president also took note of the ACC’s recent investigative report that cleared the previous government of corruption in the awarding of a concession agreement to a consortium of Indian infrastructure giant GMR and the Malaysian Airports Holdings Berhard (MAHB) to develop and manage the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA).

Nasheed said he had rejected requests for meetings by the companies that had submitted proposals for the airport privatisation project as he believed such interaction ahead of the conclusion of the bidding process would not be appropriate.