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Ports company audit uncovers corrupt deals

MPL spent MVR86 million without a bidding process.



The state-owned Maldives Ports Limited spent over MVR86 million (US$5.5 million) between 2015 and 2017 without a competitive bidding process, a special audit of the company’s procurements has found.

A report released by the audit office on Monday flagged 86 cases of illegal expenses, inflated costs and suspected graft. 

MPL spent MVR86.1 million without a bidding process to buy 17 vehicles, power engines and flags as well as anti-virus and firewall software, auditors found. Estimates were sought from handpicked sellers despite the requirement of of a public tender for purchases over MVR25,000 under procurement rules for state-owned enterprises. This was done to award contracts to specific parties, auditors concluded.

Purchases worth MVR15.2 million were also made as “emergency procurements” but auditors found that they were unwarranted by circumstances. 

Auditor General Hassan Ziyath recommended a probe by the Anti-Corruption Commission into the suspicious deals.

The audit report also highlighted several instances of overspending or wasteful expenditure, including MVR13.4 million paid for the leasing rights of two plots on Thilafushi island in 2016 that were not used at all for two years. 

In 2017, MPL paid US$429,000 as an advance to a Singaporean company to buy a landing craft. The company later refused to accept the delivered vessel because of difference in the agreed upon specifications but did not recover the advance payment. 

In the same year, MPL bought 18 air-conditioning systems from one seller for MVR1.08 million. But auditors found the same systems were available in the Maldivian market at a cost that was lower by MVR428,065. 

In 2016, MPL paid MVR663,000 for 200,000 bricks but received only 148,000 bricks.

MPL sought outside legal services for thee civil lawsuits against the company. A lawyer who was hired without a public bid announcement was paid MVR2.9 million as an advance for legal fees. 

In 2016, MPL bought a 95-feet wooden boat for MVR6.9 million to transfer cargo but it remained unused for two years. Four other vessels that cost MVR22.5 million was also kept unused until the end of 2018, the report said.

Other cases included illegal advance payments of MVR37.60 million to 16 private companies, purchases worth MVR3 million from a friend of the head of the procurement department, and the purchase of US$2.4 million of foreign currency from the black market that was MVR5.6 million higher than the exchange rate.