Weeding out corruption

corruption

One of the Bills currently pending before Parliament is the Private Member’s Motion presented by Franco Debono.  Motion 288 was presented on January 21, 2012. Entitled “An Act to regulate the formation, the inner structures, functioning and financing, of political parties and their participation in elections”. This Bill will be discarded once Parliament is dissolved.

Parliament did not discuss the Bill, although the Parliamentary Select Committee headed by Franco Debono and including MPs Francis Zammit Dimech and Jose’ Herrera discussed the matter at length in two public sessions in which representatives of all political parties and civil society participated.

The 2013 general elections will proceed on the basis of the current “rules” of party financing: a free for all. The circus which will be organised at Pieta’ and Ħamrun up till next Sunday will place common people at the forefront with their small donations to the political parties of their choice. There is nothing wrong with that. But unfortunately those making genuine donations will camouflage others whose objective is not so genuine.

Fat cats will pay homage at Pieta’ and Ħamrun contributing to the party coffers. These will be in addition to those who have already done so quietly. These later ones do not advertise donations. It is only occasionally that inadvertently their activity comes to light.

Readers will remember the case of Noel Borg Hedley, former private secretary of the Finance Minister Tonio Fenech who admitted in court the criminal charges brought against him that he accepted bribes from  building developers. He accepted tips and donations which he used to finance the electoral campaign of his boss, Minister Tonio Fenech.

The Minister has denied knowledge of the source of the finances used in his election campaign. It is not known whether the police have investigated the Hon Minister as to whether, notwithstanding his denial, he actually knew anything about the matter. No one is above the law, we are told.

This is one case which the public knows about. After the Borg Hedley case Minister Tonio Fenech was retained by Lawrence Gonzi as part of the Cabinet indicating clearly Dr Gonzi’s standards.

The government led by Lawrence Gonzi  did not have the political will to  introduce a regulatory structure which determines and limits the permissible amounts which can be donated as well as determining the compulsory disclosure of the names of those who make donations to political parties and their candidates.

Alternattiva Demokratika considers that the public has a right to know the identity of those financing all the political parties and their candidates. In particular regulation of party financing should establish a limit on the maximum donation which may be received from any one donor.  AD’s electoral manifesto to be published in the coming weeks will once more place this matter on the general election agenda emphasising that donations received by political parties (including their candidates) in excess of €5,000 per annum should be disclosed as well as that it should be illegal to receive donations in excess of €40,000 per annum from one source.

All political parties, year in year out, piously declare themselves in favour of transparency. Yet when push comes to shove those who have the power to legislate have repeatedly failed to act.

Regulating the financing of political parties is an essential building block in the fight against corruption. The fact that no such legislation is in place is adequate proof that there is no political will to weed out corruption.

First published on di-ve.com: December 14, 2012

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