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Foreign Ministry's COVID-19 expenses in line with policies: Auditor General

Fathmath Shaahunaz
24 August 2020, MVT 20:32
Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid holds a virtual conference with Indian Minister of External Affairs Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on August 13, 2020. PHOTO/FOREIGN MINISTRY
Fathmath Shaahunaz
24 August 2020, MVT 20:32

The Auditor General's Office on Monday revealed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' COVID-19 related expenses during the first half of this year were in line with relevant laws and policies.

According to the compliance audit report signed by Auditor General Hassan Ziyath, the foreign ministry received a budget of MVR 10.1 million for pandemic related matters from January 1 till June 30. The amount includes MVR 7.15 million from the state budget and MVR 3 million from the Ministry of Islamic Affairs' Zakat Trust Fund.

The audit shows that the foreign ministry's COVID-19 related expenditures were mainly across two categories:

- MVR 2.65 million disbursed as financial aid to Maldivians stranded overseas due to closed borders and travel restrictions over the pandemic

- MVR 4.1 million on tickets to repatriate Maldivian students studying medicine abroad, as well as some other locals

The report shows that over MVR 500,000 was also spent as administrative and other expenses of the ministry and some Maldivian missions abroad in connection with the pandemic.

The ministry spent total MVR 7.26 million from the allocated budget across the first six months of 2020, with MVR 2.88 million remaining.

Concluding the report, the Auditor General's Office stated that the foreign ministry's expenses on COVID-19 related issues were in line with the Public Finance Act and the state's financial regulations, as well as the policies set by the Ministry of Finance and foreign ministry itself.

Following the parliament's decision on May 20 to mandate quarterly audits of government expenditures on COVID-19, the foreign ministry's compliance audit is the third report issued by the Auditor General's Office.

Previous audit reports on the Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Health brought to light major acts of corruption in the ministries' COVID-19 spending, sparking public outrage and official investigations. Currently, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is probing the issues highlighted in the tourism ministry's audit report, as well as conducting a joint investigation with Maldives Police Service into the health ministry's expenditures.

In addition to the foreign ministry, the Auditor General's Office also revealed that Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF)'s COVID-19 expenditures were lawful and in line with relevant regulations and policies.

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