NDMA defends irregularities noted in compliance audit report

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has denied the claims made against the authority in the compliance audit report on NDMA.

The Auditor General’s Office raised several red flags on NDMA’s COVID-19 spending in its compliance audit report on the authority.

In a press conference held on Wednesday, NDMA’s Chief Executive Officer, Hisaan Hassan said the audit report was done without proper investigation and that the report’s conclusions painted a wrong picture of the situation.

Although the daily rate for quarantine facility rooms had been established as MVR 750, the report noted that MVR 840 had been billed for facilities in one resort. Hisaan said the amount was billed for the first resort which was used as a quarantine facility, Malahini Kuda Bandos, and that the billed amount was according to an agreement between the Tourism Ministry and the resort. However, the agreement was later terminated and a new agreement with the revised rate of MVR 750 was made once again, clarified Hisaan. Since the extra amount previously charged was the Goods and Service Tax (GST), and since the amount is received by the state later on, he does not believe the transaction caused any loss to the state, said Hisaan.

Speaking regarding the goods purchased at rates higher than controlled prices set by the government as noted in the report, Hisaan said the issue had come to NDMA’s attention even before the audit report was published. The information reported in the audit is incorrect, he noted, stating that although the report noted a discrepancy of MVR 23,457, the actual difference is MVR 28,000. Action was taken after the issue was identified, and the amount has now been recovered, said Hisaan.

Further noting that the audit report had noted that rooms from guesthouses in the Greater Male’ Region were rented to be used as quarantine facilities without a binding agreement, Hisaan said a policy regarding the use of guest houses had been established and the policy was followed in paying for the rented rooms. In this regard, 1099 rooms from 85 guest houses were used until the end of June, and the rooms had accommodated 1,777 individuals, said Hisaan.

The report also noted that the Hulhumale’ Medical Facility was built on land that the government did not own, and raised concern over future legal disputes that may arise due to that.

Speaking regarding the facility, Hisaan said the premise was strategically located as it was right in front of the TreeTop Hospital; the main hospital that was initially going to be used to treat COVID-19 patients. Although the land is not owned by the state, no rent has to be paid for the land use, thereby saving a large amount of money, said Hisaan. The fact that the building on the land was already built to a large extent, this cut building costs to establish the facility, he added.

The audit report had further noted that a proper stock record of items received as grant assistance were not maintained by NDMA. However, Hisaan denied the accusation and said the stock record is maintained as per regulations. He further noted that the Auditor GEneral’s Office was invited to work at the NAtional Emergency OPeration Centre (NEOC), an invitation which the entity declined.

NDMA has a total budget of MVR 957,419,164 to be used for COVID-19 related spending. This includes MVR 873,362,767 allocated from the state budget and additional MVR 84,056,396 from the state Trust Fund. MVR 234,880,071 was spent by the authority upto the time of audit.