A compliance audit on COVID-19 related spending conducted by the Auditor General’s Office has uncovered irregularities in disbursement of financial aid to assist Maldivians stranded overseas due to closure of boarders, after travelling there for medical treatment either at own expense, or under the sponsorship of Aasandha or National Social Protection Agency (NSPA).
Aasandha and NSPA were charged with facilitating financial aid to assist Maldivians stranded overseas who request financial aid.
And up until June 30, the institutions spent MVR 2,307,883 on 191 patients, and MVR 2,077,830 on their caretakers.
The audit report states that NSPA issued Aasandha MVR 3,815,121 to assist stranded patients and caretakers during the period, out of which MVR 103,251 remained unutilized.
Guidelines established by Foreign Ministry an Aasandha for disbursement of financial aid to stranded Maldivians state that the aid will be provided to those with return tickets to Maldives dated March 21 or later, and that the aid will be disbursed starting from the date on the date on the return ticket, and at the local rate of the state they are in.
The audit report states that NSPA failed to obtain copies of the return tickets from some of the parties, due to which the date from which they were actually entitled to financial aid remained unclear.
And up until June 30, NSPA spent MVR 157,284 on 26 parties without obtaining copies of return tickets.
“It must be highlighted that, as a result, there is no way to verify whether the financial aid was dispersed to parties overseas, or for how long they were disbursed financial aid,” reads the audit report.
Meanwhile, some of the parties who were disbursed financial aid through Aasandha received financial aid ahead of the date on their return ticket.
The audit report states that three parties received MVR 116,807 more than they should have received under the guidelines.
And of the 179 samples reviewed for the audit, two parties received more than they should have, while two more parties received less than they should have.
Meanwhile, one party stranded overseas received financial aid from both Aasandha and Foreign Ministry for the same period.
Of the 179 samples reviewed for the audit, four parties received MVR 21,033 more than they should have received.
FINANCIAL AID RELEASED TO DECEASED PATIENT
The audit report states that one Maldivian patient who died overseas during the lockdown was issued financial aid after the date of death.
The Maldivian in question, who was sent overseas for medical treatment under the sponsorship of Aasandha, was declared dead on April 15. And Aasandha told auditors that the hospital informed the company of the patient’s death on April 16.
However, Aasandha and NSPA transferred MVR 9,498 as financial aid to the bank account number provided on the patient’s behalf, after the date of death.
SOME RECEIVED MORE, WHILE SOME RECEIVED LESS
The audit report states that an accounting of the financial aid disbursed during the period which Aasandha and NSPA attest to, shows that some parties received more than they should have, while others received less than they should have.
And up until June 30, the excess financial aid disbursed to parties amounts to MVR 18,834, while the shortage amounts to MVR 7,520.
NO ISSUE WITH DISBURSMENT OF INCOME SUPPORT ALLOWANCE
The audit report states that 2,506 parties whose income was negatively affected due to the COVD-19 pandemic, who applied for assistance to meet their basic needs, were disbursed MVR 10,049,378.
It included MVR 7,787,447 disbursed to 2,046 parties whose employment or income were negatively affected, and MVR 2,261,931 disbursed to 464 parties who are self-employed whose income was negatively affected.
The audit report states that auditors believe income support allowance to have been disbursed in accordance with the verification guideline for income support program.