The Financing of Political Parties: (3) The Bill. The regulatory authority

parlament

 

The Bill on the financing of political parties is designed on the basis that what is administratively suitable for the PN and the PL has been deemed to be suitable for all: a one size fits all attitude.

Through the Bill Government is proposing that the Electoral Commission should be the regulatory authority. The manner in which the Electoral Commission is composed, half appointed by Government with the other half appointed by the Opposition (and a Government appointed Chairman) places the two parliamentary parties in such a position that they directly control the whole proposed process. All other political parties, Alternattiva Demokratika included, are excluded from this process.

Reference is made to the proposal approved by the Parliamentary Select Committee chaired by the Speaker. The Select Committee has now finalised its report which includes another Bill entitled: Standards in Public Life Act 2014. This other Bill provides for the appointment of a Commissioner and a Permanent Parliamentary Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The Bill on Standards in Public Life deals with the behaviour of politicians elected to Parliament as well as advisors and persons appointed to positions of trust. The regulatory authority in this case is exercised by a Commissioner for Standards in Public Life who as provided in Clause 4 of the  Bill on Standards in Public Life requires the consent of not less than two thirds of members of the House of Representatives in order to be appointed.

This Commissioner is to be supervised by a Permanent Committee led by the Speaker together with 4 Members of Parliament, two from the Government side and two from the Opposition.

Alternattiva Demokratika  is of the opinion that the support of two thirds of parliament is a guarantee of impartiality and seriousness. In addition the role of a Parliamentary Committee is a  guarantee of transparency as the meetings of the Parliamentary Select Committee are held in public.  The procedures  taking place are therefore more easily subject to the scrutiny of the Press.

For these reasons Alternattiva Demokratika is of the opinion that the regulatory authority on the financing of politics should be within the structures which  Parliament is slowly and patiently constructing relative to Standards in Public Life with the involvement of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. This would be much better than the structure proposed in the Bill on the Financing of Political Parties.

It is understood that the identification of the Electoral Commission as the regulatory authority on the financing of political parties has been lifted from the experience of the United Kingdom. It should however be borne in mind that the UK experience has no parallels in Malta when one considers the requirements of an independent regulatory authority. In UK legislation both the electoral process as well as  the monitoring of the financing of political parties is under the control of  the House of Commons and the UK Electoral Commissioners (ten in all) in contrast to the Maltese practice cannot be persons who are in any way associated with political parties. This is a substantial and fundamental difference.

 

 

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