Human rights watchdog denies wasting funds

Human rights watchdog denies wasting funds
July 27 13:34 2016

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives has denied wasting funds as flagged in the watchdog body’s audit report for 2015, condemning “misleading” media reports to the contrary.

According to the audit report, the commission made no effort during 2015 to recover MVR1.15 million (US$74,500) owed by employees and spent MVR97,569 (US$6,300) in excess of its annual budget.

The audit found that MVR1,159,700 is owed by four employees who went overseas on scholarships between 2010 and 2014 but returned without completing their one-year training courses.

The HRCM is authorised to sue if the employees do not reimburse the expenses as stipulated by their scholarship agreement. But documentation showed no sign of any efforts to recover the funds as of December 31, the report said.

In a statement released last Thursday in response to media coverage of the audit report, the HRCM said it is seeking to recover the money from the four employees.

A repayment schedule has been worked out and the recovered funds will be deposited to the state budget, it said.

Shifaq Mufeed ‘Histo,’ the HRCM’s vice president, meanwhile slammed his colleagues for “condemning the media” for its coverage of the audit report.

In a sign of dissension among the five-member commission, Shifaq also criticised the commission on Twitter for cancelling a job announcement for a director after complaints were levelled at HRCM members.

Shifaq suggested that the right course of action would have been to ask the anti-corruption watchdog investigate the issue and clear the members of wrongdoing.

“Cancelling the announcement is an admission. When such things occur and the audit office, various institutions, and the media talk about it, it is not sensible to release statements saying we condemn it,” he said.

The former MP also appeared on the opposition-aligned Raajje TV last week. The commission does not face political influence but needs to use its legal powers better, he said.

Meanwhile, the audit also found that the commission withdrew in excess of approved amounts from several budget code items.

But the report acknowledged the explanation offered by the commission, which was also detailed in the press statement.

The HRCM said it sought extra funds from the finance ministry because the budget approved by parliament was insufficient for its activities.

The funds were requested through budget control forms and letters, the commission said, but the ministry made deductions from the HRCM budget item codes with internal memos.

“And we note that these deductions were made without considering the amounts the commission spent in 2015,” it added.

The HRCM also noted that purchase order forms cannot be generated through the state’s ‘central payment system’ if there were insufficient funds in the appropriate budget item code.

Only the finance ministry can make changes through the CAP system, the commission noted.