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.