Auditor general alleges several inconsistencies in Ministry of Human Resources 2010 audit report

Auditor General (AG) Niyaz Ibrahim has alleged that several inconsistencies in spending have been identified in the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports’ 2010 audit report.

The discrepancies highlighted in the report (Dhivehi) include a failure to prepare the ministry’s financial statements in accordance to legal standards, as well as certain spending on a number of projects and events.

Speaking to Minivan News today, former Minister of Human Resources, Youth and Sports Hassan Latheef questioned how complete the AG’s research had been, adding that the documents identified as missing in the audit report would have been available.

Latheef who was in charge of the ministry until the controversial transfer of power in February last year, claimed that the AG’s report was misleading.  Although he did not dismiss the report’s conclusions outright, Latheef maintained that the AG’s findings were incomplete and would have been more accurate if it had consulted with staff working at the ministry during his tenure.

Copies of the AG’s report are to be sent to President Waheed and parliament, as well as other relevant authorities. The AG has also called on to the authorities to investigate the findings of the report and take action against those who are found responsible.

In the report, which was released on Thursday (January 3), the AG’s office stated that it did not believe the Human Resources Ministry had spent its budget in compliance with the Public Finance Act (Act No. 3/2006) and Public Finance Regulation.  The findings therefore included recommendations to reclaim the sum of money believed to have been spent outside of the regulations.


Amidst the AG’s findings, the report claimed that the Human Resources Ministry had failed to prepare its financial statement for 2010 as stipulated in the Public Finance Regulation.

“The Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports’ financial statements were not prepared in accordance with the standards set by the International Public Sector Standards (IPSAS) board,” the report stated.

AG Niyaz also alleged that the ministry had failed to recover funds owed to the state by different parties from several outsourced projects, including a project to set up and run a canteen at the Maafannu Cricket Stadium.

The AG claimed that a sum of MVR 487,875 (US$ 31,639.15) was owed to the state as a result of the project, which included rent and fines.  The report added that the Human Resources Ministry had failed to take adequate measures to recover the outstanding sum of money.

In an another claim, the AG alleged that the ministry had failed to recover a sum of MVR 237,000 (US$ 15,369.65) owed to the state as both rent and fines from “Ekuveni Canteen”.  The report recommended the ministry recover money from the parties, calling on authorities to take action against those found to have failed to comply with the laws and regulations.

Illegal transfer of funds

The report also highlighted several cases where funds were transferred by the Human Resources Ministry to projects that the AG claimed were carried out in contradiction to national laws. Included among the highlighted cases was a transfer of MVR 130,000 (US$ 8,430.60) to the Cricket Control Board as a payment for work carried and payment of MVR 14,500 (US$ 940.33) for another company.

The report also raised concerns over sums of MVR 75,000 (US$ 4,863.81) and MVR 50,000 (US$ 3,242.54) transferred to two NGO’s said to have close ties with an unidentified senior ministerial figure. Another issue was a sum of MVR 153,274.80 (US$ 9,940.00) that had been provided to a music band who had not even requested for the money “according to the documents”.

Spending on travel expenses of a parliament member

The AG’s report stated that the Human Resources Ministry budget had also been used to cover an MP’s travel expenses during a trip with then Minister Hassan Latheef to watch the finals of 2010 AFC Challenge Cup held in Sri Lanka.

According to the report, the Ministry spent a total of MVR 15,280.60 (US$ 990.96), which  included a sum of MVR 12,057.60 (US$ 781.95) for pocket money, incidental allowance, accommodation and meals.  The remaining MVR 3,223 (US$ 209.01) was used to cover the MP’s air ticket to watch the football match.

The AG’s office recommended that the ministry bring its budget spending in accordance with the Public Finance Regulations. The report also raised questions as to what capacity the MP had travelled with the minister, as well as the grounds for the government to cover the subsequent travelling expenses.

According to the report, the ministry was advised to retrieve all monies spent by the MP, referring again to measures within public finance laws and regulations.

Former Minister’s response

Responding to the AG’s Office report today, former Human Resources Minister Hassan Latheef said that the MP who travelled with him, as mentioned in the report, was Hamid Abdul Ghafoor of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP).  According to Latheef,  Ghafoor – formerly a state minister in the ministry prior to his election to parliament – was accompanying him as a “technical consultant” on the trip.

“Actually it was not just simply a final match. I went there to meet the President of Asian Football Association (AFC) Mohammed bin Hammam. I had sent a letter to Hamid Abdul Ghafoor to accompany me as a technical consultant because I do not possess the technical knowledge of football. So I had requested Ghafoor in official capacity. I even can assure you that a copy of the letter would also be there,” he explained.

Latheef contended that after looking at the numbers, it would be clear that the ministry had spent the minimum required amount for travel expenses and had not intended to “award [MP Ghafoor] a stack of cash”.

“It was neither carried out in a politically motived way nor as a friend. He went as a technical consultant. Now people would ask why Ghafoor was selected. I believe the minister would have the discretion to decide who he would take,” he added.

“This is not something new. For instance, a person who is not even in the government or even in politics went as a chief guest to attend the SAARC Youth Camp held in Addu City in 2011. But it will be our ministry who would be giving his accommodation and travel expenses. How can that be called corruption or politically motivated?”

According to Latheef, the AG had been requested to audit the Human Resources Ministry’s operations back in 2008 shortly after he assumed his position under the government of former President Mohamed Nasheed. According to Latheef, the AG had at the time said that it had already audited the former Employment Ministry and could therefore only look at the youth and sports operations.

“When it was getting delayed, I even sent a letter in 2009 as well asking the AG to audit the ministry” he said.

“I know the AG would only base his report on documents, but if he had asked our collaboration, we would have helped. Things get confusing when you wake up the next morning to see a new government has taken over through a coup. Had we been there when the auditing took place, I am sure the documents which the AG had noted missing would have been found,” he explained.

Amidst other concerns identified in the report, Latheef dismissed claims he had failed to try and retrieve funds spent by the ministry. He added that the ministry, during his tenure, was working on retrieving funds from the said parties and some of the cases were being investigated by police in cases where the ministry had filed for non-payment of rent.

Responding additionally to concerns about providing payment to the band identified in the AG’s findings, Latheef claimed that the report had said it was the responsibility of the National Sports Council to set the procedures for which performers can be paid. Latheef however dismissed the claim, stating that it was the ministry’s responsibility.

“The sports council does not do that. It is the responsibility of the [Human Resources] Ministry.  The Sports Council can set the mechanism on how the sports associations are given money. They don’t have to do that for music bands,” he said.


Human Resource Ministry owed more than MVR 350 million in unpaid work permit fees, student loan repayments

The Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and Sports failed to collect MVR 168.4 million (US$10.9 million) in expatriate work permit fees for the past three years and MVR 191 million (US$12.3 million) in repayments for student loans, the ministry’s audit report for 2011 has revealed.

The audit report (Dhivehi) made public on Monday stated that information from the past three years on expatriate work visas showed that the year-on-year increase in foreign workers arriving in the Maldives was “alarming.”

“Records from the Department of Immigration and Emigration show that from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2011 the state did not receive MVR 168,414,000 (US$10.9 million) owed as work permit fees,” the audit report revealed.

Records showed that the number of foreign workers living in the Maldives without paying work permit fees in 2009 was 16,934.

The figure increased to 27,793 in 2010 and 39,756 in 2011.

While the expatriate workforce in the Maldives as of December 2009 was 57,968 registered workers, the figure had risen to 99,369 by September 2011.

Of the total number of foreign workers, 55 percent or 54,653 expatriates were from Bangladesh and “69 percent of these, or 37,710 people, are working in the country illegally.”

Of the remaining 44,716 from other nations, 18 percent or 8,048 were illegal workers.

“Therefore, records show that the total number of foreigners working in the Maldives illegally is 45,758 (46 percent of foreign workers),” the report revealed.

Student loan repayments

The student loan repayments were meanwhile owed for two loan schemes launched respectively in 2000 and 2005.

As of December 31, 2011, the report found that the ministry failed to collect 154.6 million (US$10 million) as repayments for a long-term student loan programme launched in 2005 from a national higher education fund.

Of MVR 155.6 million (US$10 million) released between 2005 and 2011, the audit discovered that only MVR 904,872.28 (US$58,681) was repaid.

“Students who went for higher education under the scheme have not been repaying the loans because the department of higher education had not sent repayment schedules with details of the total amounts owed,” the report found.

If “adequate efforts” had been undertaken to collect payments, the Auditor General’s Office noted that “a revolving fund could have been established to provide higher education opportunities without additional expenditure from the state budget.”

Meanwhile in 2000, the report explained, the ministry launched a programme with World Bank loan assistance titled the “third education project” and issued MVR 250 million (US$16.2 million) under the scheme, with a specified portion to be paid back to the ministry.

“While it was determined that 15 percent from government employees participating in the scheme and 50 percent from participants from private companies would be collected, we note that repayments have not been sought from anyone,” the report stated.

“And as a result of the ministry not properly maintaining records of how the money was spent on students under the scheme, we note that details of how funds were released for individual students are not available and no one was sent repayment schedules.”

The report observed that MVR 37.5 million (US$2.4 million) estimated as repayments owed under the scheme has not been collected due to the “carelessness, incompetence and negligence of those in charge of the ministry’s relevant department”.

In February 2012, the report noted, the department of higher education and its staff at the Human Resource Ministry were transferred under the Ministry of Education.

Violations of Public Finance Act

The Auditor General’s Office stated that it did not believe expenditure out of the ministry’s budget was “mainly” in accordance with the Public Finance Act and “to the extent specified in the budget, on matters determined in the budget and in ways that would achieve the objectives of the ministry’s budget for 2011.”

In addition to the ministry failing to collect student loan repayments and unpaid work permit fees, the audit report noted a number of instances that were ostensibly in violation of the Public Finance Act and regulations under the law.

The audit discovered that seven political appointees were paid salaries and allowances in 2010 with no records of attendance.

The responsibilities of the seven senior officials who did not sign attendance sheets were unclear, the report noted.

Moreover, the audit found that a state minister was paid MVR 165,897.93 (US$10,758) as salary from February 13, 2012 to May 2012 despite not attending the office during the period.

While the state minister had submitted a written request for a holiday on February 13 before flying abroad, the report noted that the ministry had not made official arrangements for the leave of absence.

On February 7, 2012, former President Mohamed Nasheed resigned under controversial circumstances following a police mutiny at the Republic Square.

“[The state minister] was removed from the post by the President’s Office on July 22, 2012,” the report noted.

In another case, the audit discovered that MVR 865,500.70 (US$56,128) was deposited for seven students studying in Malaysia under the office’s staff development scheme, in excess of the official approved stipend.

In place of RM11,760 (Malaysian Ringgits) as six month’s stipend for each student, a sheet sent to the bank from the ministry mistakenly stated US$11,760, the report found.

While the ministry’s staff studying in Malaysia received an additional MVR 123,642.96 (US$8,018) each, the report noted that no attempt had been made to recover the excess amounts.

The audit report blamed the “failure of the employees to carry out their responsibilities” in preparing, checking and authorising the sheet sent to the bank.

The ministry meanwhile incurred MVR 133,938 (US$8,686) as fines for late payment of water and electricity bills in 2011, but no employees were held responsible and the loss to the state was not recovered.

The report also found that a total of MVR 420,000 (US$27,237) was paid as allowances in 2011 – at a rate of MVR 2,500 (US$162) a month – for 15 members of the National Sports Council under the ministry, without official approval from the government.

The report noted that the council held only seven meetings in 2011, each lasting for about an hour and with half the council’s membership in attendance.

Meanwhile, as a result of failing to properly maintain stock inventories, equipment purchased by the ministry was not registered and five laptops and 15 printers were lost.

The audit also discovered that the ministry provided MVR 200,000 (US$12,970) to the Shaviyani Milandhoo island council in June 2011 to set up a net around the island’s football stadium.

The funds were not approved in the 2011 budget but were released based on a pledge by the President to the islanders, the report stated, noting that such expenditure was “in breach of budgetary rules.”

Cancelled beach games

The audit report revealed that the ministry spent MVR 1.28 million (US$84,306) for “a first-ever beach and water sports tournament in South Asia” that never took place.

In February 2011, event organisers told Minivan News that the “Maldives Beach Games 2011” would bring hundreds of athletes from around the world to compete in 10 sporting events.

The international games were launched in February with a laser show and an appearance from renowned Sri Lankan cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya at a ceremony in Male’s Kulhivaru Ekuveni Indoor Hall.

The audit report meanwhile noted that the reasons for the eventual cancellation could not be discerned from the official documents.

The expenditure – made through the Maldives Olympic Committee – included over MVR 542,000 (US$35,149) on advertising and MVR 103,450 (US$6,708) on “a mascot and theme song for launching the beach games.”

Equipment, furniture and other items purchased for the cancelled games cost MVR139,545 (US$9,050).

Of the ultimately wasteful expenditure, the report noted that MVR 843,571 (US$54,706) was spent in violation of the Public Finance Act and regulations as estimates were only sought from one party.

A member of the sports council created by the ministry was meanwhile paid MVR50,000 (US$3,242) – without a public bidding process – to transfer sand from a soccer pitch made for the games to the artificial beach, the report found.

The Olympic Committee spent MVR 117,000 (US$7,588) to prepare the soccer pitch in the vacant plot in front of Villa College.

Moreover, a deputy minister and the sports council member travelled to Bangalore at a cost of MVR57,825 (US$3,750) purportedly in relation to the games, but the purpose of the trip was unclear as an official report was not prepared.


Maldives to restrict expatriate travel

The movement of foreigners throughout the Maldives will be restricted, according to new rules implemented by the ministry of human resources, youth and sport.

All foreigners wishing to travel between islands from 1 February 2010 must present appropriate documents to the captain or person in charge of the vessel, the ministry revealed.

Speaking to Minivan News, Minister of Human Resources Hassan Latheef said the travel restrictions were being implemented to reduce the number of illegal expatriate workers travelling between islands.

“The problem of illegal workers in this country is huge, we have been getting many complaints from islands,” he said.

“An example is in Laamu atoll: illegal workers have become involved in agricultural business and are driving local farmers out of business.”

He acknowledged that “while we can’t deport everyone, I believe that stopping them from moving around is the first step towards solving this issue.”

Proper documentation

From February all foreigners must carry one of three documents to be able to travel around the country: either a valid work permit, proper visa documents for visitors, or a special letter from the ministry allowing travel.

Any captain or vessel owner which transports foreigners without these documents will face legal action, the ministry said.


Asked how the community might react to such measures, Latheef said “There won’t be much difficulty in implementing these measures, because even now ships have to keep a log of all the passengers it carries. There will be no inconvenience at all, as most crews will be able to check documents very fast and efficiently.”

Asked about the impact on non-working foreigners in the country, Latheef said “All they have to do is provide a visa or document showing their purpose in the country.”

Tourists “may find this alarming,” admitted  Ahmed Solih, permanent secretary of the tourism ministry.

“But if the situation is explained, they will understand,” he said.

One expatriate currently working in the country wasn’t so sure.

“As someone who travels on a daily basis does this mean I have to carry my documents with me in case they are checked? Having to carry around papers all the time feels very restrictive,” he said.

“It feels like there is a currently a bit of a witch-hunt against expatriates, with the retraction of the liquor licences and the difficulty getting work permits – is the government trying to drive out skill sets the country doesn’t have?”

Solih said the problem of illegal workers was a national issue, particularly for a relatively small community like the Maldives.

“These measures may seem dramatic but this decision has only been made after many other alternatives have failed. I am sure there will be measures in the rules to account for the tourism industry.”