Il-finanzjament tal-partiti : id-difett ewlieni fil-liġi

 

Bħalissa għaddej id-dibattitu dwar jekk il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għandiex tinvestiga l-allegazzjonijiet li nġiebu għall-attenzjoni tagħha dwar nuqqas ta osservanza tal-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti.

Alternattiva Demokratika sa mill-bidu nett għamlitha ċara li kien żball oħxon li tintgħażel il-Kummissjoni Elettorali biex tħares l-implimentazzjoni tal-liġi. Fdokument dwar l-abbozz ta liġi f’Lulju 2014, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet qalet hekk : 

………….. l-komposizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali bnofsha  tinħatar mill-Gvern u bin-nofs l-ieħor tinħatar mill-Oppożizzjoni (bChairman appuntat mill-Gvern) tpoġġi liżżewġ partiti politiċi parlamentari fpożizzjoni li direttament jikkontrollaw il-proċess kollu li qed jiġi propost. Kull partit politiku ieħor, inkluż Alternattiva Demokratika, hu  eskluż minn dan il-proċess.

…………………

Alternattiva Demokratika, kif diġa għamlet meta ikkummentat dwar il-White Paper tirreferi għal proposta approvata minn Kumitat Magħżul tal-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti taħt it-tmexxija tal-iSpeaker. Il-Kumitat Magħżul issa iffinalizza r-rapport tiegħu liema rapport  jinkludi abbozz ta liġi ieħor intitolat: Standards in Public Life Act 2014. Dan l-abbozz  jipprovdi dwar il-ħatra ta Kummissarju u Kumitat Permanenti Parlamentari dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika.

Skond il-klawsola 3 tal-abbozz dwar l-Istandards, il-liġi proposta tapplika għall-Membri tal- Parlament (inkluż Ministri, Segretarji Parlamentari u Assistenti Parlamentari) kif ukoll għal  persuni impjegati fposizzjoni ta fiduċja inkella bħala konsulenti tal-Gvern jew ta xi korp  statutorju. L-istess klawsola 3 tippermetti li l-applikabilita tal-liġi tista titwessa permezz ta  regolamenti li jkunu ikkunsidrati u jiksbu l-appoġġ tal-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti.

L-abbozz jikkonċerna l-imġieba tal-politiċi eletti fil-Parlament u konsulenti/ħatriet ta fiduċja.

L-awtorità regolatorja hi vestita fKummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika li skond kif  tipprovdi l-klawsola 4 tal-istess abbozz jeħtieġ l-approvazzjoni ta mhux inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Membri tal-Kamra tar-Rappreżentanti biex ikun jista jinħatar.

Il-Kummissarju hekk maħtur hu propost li jkun sorveljat fil-ħidma tiegħu minn Kumitat Permanenti mmexxi mill-iSpeaker u kompost ukoll minn 4 Membri Parlamentari, tnejn min-naħa tal-Gvern u tnejn oħra min-naħa tal-Oppożizzjoni.

Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li dan ifisser mhux biss garanzija ta serjeta u imparzjalita bil-ħatra ta persuna li tgawdi l-fiduċja ta mhux inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Parlament imma ukoll garanzija ta trasparenza ikbar minħabba li l-laqgħat tal-Kumitat Parlamentari jsiru fil-pubbliku. Il-ħidma li issir għaldaqstant tista ukoll tkun soġġetta biktar faċilita għall-iskrutinju tal-medja.  

Għal dawn ir-raġunijiet Alternattiva Demokratika hi tal-fehma li l-awtorita regolatorja dwar il-finanzjament tal-politika għandha tkun fil-qafas tal-istruttura li l-Parlament qiegħed jibni bil-mod u bil-paċenzja dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika bl-involviment tal-Kummissarju dwar l-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika. Dan ikun ferm aħjar mill-istruttura proposta fl-abbozz ta liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi.

Nifhmu li l-idea li l-awtorita regolatorja għall-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali ttieħdet mill-esperjenza tar-Renju Unit. Irridu iżda inżommu quddiem għajnejna li l-esperjenza tar-Renju Unit mgħandha xejn xtaqsam ma dik Maltija fejn tidħol awtorita regolatorja indipendenti. Fil-leġislazzjoni tar-Renju Unit kemm il-proċess elettorali ukoll dak ta sorveljanza tal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi hu taħt il-lenti tal-House of Commons u l-Kummissarji Elettorali għar-Renju Unit (għaxra bkollox) bkuntrast mal-prattika fMalta ma jistgħux ikunu persuni assoċjati ma partiti politiċi. Dik tagħmel differenza kbira u fundamentali.

Wara li Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ħarget bdin ir-reazzjoni, il-PN kien beda jdoqq l-istess diska.

Imma l-Gvern webbes rasu.

 

Tista tara id-dokument sħih ippubblikat bil-Malti hawn. Inkella hawn jekk tippreferi taqrah bl-Ingliż.

Joseph Church : waħdu fin-nofs

 

 

Is-Sur Joseph Church hu l-Kummissarju Elettorali Ewlieni. Huwa uffiċjal pubbliku. Jmexxi l-Kummissjoni Elettorali magħmula minn 9 membri: 4 nominati mill-Prim Ministru, 4 oħra nominati mill-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni flimkien mas-Sur Joseph Church.

Meta l-Gvern ippreżenta l-abbozz ta liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-ewwel insista li l-awtoritá li kellha tieħu ħsieb it-twettiq ta dawn l-obbligi kellha tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Il-Gvern insista dwar dan għax il-konsulent legali tiegħu Franco Debono repetutament insista dwar dan. Kienu jgħidu li hekk hi l-liġi Ingliża!

Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem insistiet li kien żball li din ir-responsabbiltá titqiegħed f’ħoġor il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għax din, minħabba l-komposizzjoni tagħha, fl-iktar mumenti kritiċi tieħu posizzjoni partiġġjana biċ-Chairman fin-nofs irid jiddeċiedi prattikament hu l-iktar kwistjonijiet jaħarqu.

Franco Debono u Owen Bonnici kienu jgħidu li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali dejjem mexxiet tajjeb l-elezzjonijiet kollha li kellha l-inkarigu li tmexxi. Dawn forsi qatt ma irrealizzaw li l-liġijiet elettorali tant huma dettaljati li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali ftit għandha fejn tiċċaqlaq u anke kieku riedet kważi qatt ma setgħet tagħti deċiżjonijiet differenti milli tat!

Fuq kollox il-Kummissjoni Elettorali Ingliża hi komposta bmod differenti u fiha persuni li huma verament indipendenti. Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali Maltija għandha tmienja minn disa membri li mhumiex u l-anqas qatt ma jistgħu jkunu indipendenti, avolja huma lkoll persuni serji. Hemm ta’ l-inqas tlieta minnhom li kienu kandidati felezzjonijiet ġenerali. Hemm min minnhom anke illum hu direttur ta Korpi Parastatali nnominat mill-Gvern!

Fdawn iċċirkustanzi Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ipproponiet li l-awtoritá dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti għandha tkun fil-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika li l-Liġi dwaru ġiet approvata riċentement.

Wara xi żmien li Alternattiva Demokratika kienet ħarġet bdin il-proposta, il-Partit Nazzjonalista ukoll kien ħareġ idoqq l-istess diska. Imma l-Gvern webbes rasu.

Mela illum tiddeċiedi l-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Immaġinaw ftit xinhi l-posizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni meta titalab tinvestiga liżżewġ partiti l-kbar. Diġa hawn l-ewwel każijiet u hemm d-diffikultajiet. It-Times qed tirrapporta li wara li ġie diskuss il-każ tal-invoices tal-PN/Silvio Debono hemm membri tal-Kummissjoni li qed joġġezzjonaw li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali tkun hi li tinvestiga u taqta l-każ.

Ovvja, 4 jaqblu u 4 ma jaqblux. U jispiċċa jiddeċiedi ċ-Chairman is-Sur Joseph Church, waħdu, war li jkun qies il-parir legali li jirċievi.

Dan kollu seta jkun evitat kieku l-Gvern ta każ tal-fehma ta Alternattiva Demokratika li kienet ippreżentata bil-miktub kemm meta ħarġet il-White Paper kif ukoll iktar tard meta ħareġ l-abbozz ta liġi.

Meta Joseph ried €5

five euro

Il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-Partiti għaddiet minn l-aħħar stadju fil-Parlament dal-għodu meta kienet approvata unanimament. Jiġifieri l-membri parlamentari kollha preżenti ivvutaw favur: 33 min-naħa tal-Gvern u 27 min-naħa tal-Opposizzjoni.

Qabel ma vvutaw, għal xi minuti, Simon Busuttil u Joseph Muscat argumentaw. Simon Busuttil tkellem dwar id-difetti tal-liġi [l-għażla tar-regolatur, il-propjetà pubblika f’idejn il-Partit Laburista u proposta ta’ limitazzjoni ta’ infieq (sa żewġ miljun ewro) f’kampanja elettorali]. Joseph Muscast wieġeb li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi korp kostituzzjonali fdat fl-iktar mument delikat fil-ħajja tal-pajjiż (waqt elezzjoni ġenerali), li l-propjetà pubblika f’idejn il-Partit Laburista ma tagħtih l-ebda vantaġġ partikolari (għax kieku m’għamilx 25 sena fl-Opposizzjoni) u li l-flus, ġaladarba jkunu nġabru b’mod leċitu għandu jkun hemm d-dritt li jintefqu.

Il-Partit Nazzjonalista għandu riżervi kbar, ma jaqbilx, imma ivvota favur xorta biex jevita l-problemi li ħoloq għalih innifsu meta astjena dwar id-drittijiet ċivili tal-komunita gay, jew meta ivvota b’mod imħawwad [biċċa favur, biċċa kontra, u biċċa astensjoni] fuq l-introduzzjoni tad-divorzju!

La Joseph Muscat u l-anqas Simon Busuttil ma qalu xejn dwar il-kontradizzjoni fil-każ tal-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat. Għax filwaqt li l-Gvern ta’ Joseph Muscat illum ma jaqbilx mal-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti xorta f’kull budget baqa’ jvvota €200,000 fis-sena biex jinqasmu bejn il-Partit Nazzjonalista u l-Partit Laburista: €100,000 kull wieħed. Għax fil-fatt l-istat Malti, minkejja dak li jgħidu, jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi fil-Parlament u ilu jagħmel hekk sa mill-1994.

Dwar dan ma qalulna xejn. Kien ikun interessanti kieku spjegawlna ftit, forsi nifhmu għaliex meta jkunu fil-Gvern ikunu kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma meta jkunu fl-Opposizzjoni malajr jibdlu l-opinjoni u jsiru favur. Per eżempju il-Partit Nazzjonalista bħalissa jaqbel mal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma sentejn ilu kien kontra. Il-Partit Laburista ta’ Joseph Muscat min-naħa l-oħra issa huwa kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, imma ftit snin ilu, meta kien fl-Opposizzjoni kien talab għal €5 għal kull vot kull sena. Ovvjament il-PN fil-Gvern kien qal le.

Ħawwadni ħa nifhmek Joey!

 

Wanted: an impartial regulator for political party financing

Financing of Political Parties Act

Earlier this week, Parliament’s Standing Committee for the Consideration of Bills concluded its detailed discussion on the Bill regarding the financing of political parties. I was invited by the Committee to participate in the discussion in representation of Alternattiva Demokratika.

The Bill was improved as a result of the discussion. Around 34 clauses of the Bill were, in fact, amended, most amendments receiving unanimous consent.

However Alternattiva Demokratika’s major objection to the Bill was not addressed. When the White Paper on the regulation of the financing of political parties was published with government’s initial proposals, AD was already making the point that the choice of the Electoral Commission as the regulator was not a suitable option.

This lack of suitability clearly results from the very composition of the Electoral Commission. It is composed of nine people, four of whom are nominated by the Prime Minister, a further four are nominated by the Leader of the Opposition and the ninth person is the chairman of the Commission, who occupies that post in virtue of his having been appointed by the Prime Minister as head of The Electoral Office.

How can nominees of the parliamentary political parties regulate impartially the very parties nominating them as well as other political parties? Over the years, the Electoral Commission had the responsibility of receiving and vetting the returns submitted by candidates for elections (local, national and European) in which returns the candidates should have listed the donations they have received as well as their electoral expenditure. A cursory look at the newspapers published during past election campaigns would immediately provide ample proof that a number of such returns were – without any doubt – false declarations. Over-spending and undeclared financing was rampant, yet the Electoral Commission never took any action. Had it done so, I think that quite a number of our Members of Parliament in past legislatures or MEPs would have been unseated.

Yet the Hon. Minister Owen Bonnici keeps defending the government’s political choice of selecting the Electoral Commission as the regulator. In the government’s defence, he stated that the Electoral Commission is a constitutional body entrusted with the conduct of elections which, he said, it has carried out to the satisfaction of everyone.

Minister Owen Bonnici is incorrect. The Electoral Commission, in conducting elections, does not have any elbow room. Its discretion is substantially limited by electoral legislation which is very tight and precise. And whenever the Electoral Commission had any practical room for manoeuvre it made a mess of it.  In simple words, the Electoral Commission is constructed on partisan foundations. There are historical reasons for this but it is a basic truth which cannot be camouflaged.

While the Electoral Commission’s hands are generally tied up where electoral legislation is concerned, it is a different kettle of fish when dealing with the regulation of political parties and their financing. There will be issues and submissions that require interpretation and an eventual decision.

Already, way back in February 2014, Alternattiva Demokratika had proposed an alternative regulatory authority in the person of the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life, a post resulting from a Bill which was proposed by a Parliamentary Select Committee led by Mr Speaker Anġlu Farrugia. This Select Committee concluded its work and presented its final report on 24 March 2014, almost 16 months ago. For those who seek to act in good faith there was ample time for considering the proposals made. Yet the proposed Bill is still pending on the Parliamentary agenda.

In the Bill [Standards in Public Life Bill] the Select Committee proposed that the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life should be appointed, subject to obtaining the support of two-thirds of Members of Parliament. The election of the Commissioner would thus be on a par with that of the Ombudsman: the requirement that the support of two-thirds of Parliament has to be achieved would ensure that the selected person would, irrespective of his/her views be acceptable to a very wide-cross section of society.

This is the way forward initially proposed by Alternattiva Demokratika, but supported at a later stage by the PN.

The government never spoke against the AD proposal but only stated that it preferred the Electoral Commission as the regulatory authority as it was in a hurry. Minister Owen Bonnici said many a time that the GRECO (Council of Europe – Group of States Against Corruption) was breathing down his neck and as a result he had no time to spare for institution building!

This law will most probably be applied with effect from 1st January 2016. It is generally designed on the basis of a one-size-fits-all template that does not distinguish between political parties having a turnover measured in millions of euros and others which handle just a few thousands of euros per annum.

Political parties will be required to present annual audited accounts to the regulator, which will be published. They will also be required to submit a report on donations received over a calendar year. In addition, they will be required to publish the names of those donating in excess of €7,000 in a calendar year up to the permissible maximum of €25,000.

Alternattiva Demokratika will be examining the law in detail and taking legal advice before deciding whether to initiate legal action contesting the selection of the Electoral Commission as the regulator. The proposed law is generally a step in the right direction but, unfortunately, is tainted by the lack of identification of an appropriate regulator. It is indeed a pity that, when taking such a bold step forward, the government preferred the partisan path. In so doing it has diluted the efforts of all those who have worked hard in previous years to achieve this goal.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday – 19 July 2015

Mill-Parlament għall-Qorti ?

Scales_of_justice

 

Wara ġimgħat ta’ diskussjoni kif ukoll bħala riżultat tat-text finali tal-Liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti Politiċi jidher li hemm il-possibilita ta’ żewġ kawżi. Dawn iservu biex tinfetaħ battalja legali dwar issues jaħarqu li fihom fil-Parlament ma kienx hemm qbil bejn il-Gvern u l-Opposizzjoni.

L-ewwel kawża possibli hi dik indikata fil-press conference ta’ Chris Said u Claudio Grech nhar it-Tlieta li għaddew. Din tirrigwarda l-għażla tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala r-regolatur biex titħaddem il-liġi. Waqt id-diskussjoni fil-kumitat parlamentari li jikkunsidra l-liġijiet l-argumenti kontra l-proposta li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali tkun ir-regolatur kien wieħed ta’ preġudizzju fil-liġi innifisha. Dan il-preġudizzju hu wieħed doppju. Hu preġudizzju favur il-partiti fil-parlament (għax teskludi l-partiti l-oħra kollha) u huwa ukoll preġudizzju favur il-Gvern tal-ġurnata.

Il-komposizzjoni tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali għalhekk tagħmilha mhiex addatta biex tkun ir-regolatur, għax hu diffiċli tkun imparzjali.

Min-naħa l-oħra dwar it-tieni kawza ma jidhirlix li rajt kummenti fl-istampa. Din hi issue li tqajjmet fl-aħħar seduta tad-diskussjoni fil-kumitat parlamentari.

Meta konna qed niddiskutu d-definizzjoni ta’ “donazzjoni” qam il-punt li meta partit politiku jingħata servizz bi prezz ridott, it-tnaqqis fil-prezz għandu jitqies bħala donazzjoni. Mela jekk, per eżempju, partit politiku jikri mingħand il-privat binja li l-kera kummerċjali tagħha hi €100,000 fis-sena, imma jiftiehem biex iħallas €50,000 , id-differenza titqies bħala donazzjoni. F’dan il-kaz tkun donazzjoni illegali għax donazzjoni ma tistax taqbeż il-€25,000 fis-sena.

Allura qal Chris Said fil-kumitat parlamentari: x’inhi l-posizzjoni tal-Partit Laburista li għandu l-fuq minn tletin post (ankè l-PN għandu, imma numru inqas) propjeta’ tal-Gvern mikrijin għandu bis-soldi?

 

Owen Bonnici wieġeb li dawk il-propjetajiet f’idejn il-Partit Laburista  jiddependu minn arranġamenti li saru qabel daħlet fis-seħħ il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi u allura l-argument ta’ Chris Said ma kienx wieħed tajjeb.  L-Avukat Ġenerali ta’ xi spjegazzjonijiet legali li fil-fehma tiegħi ma ikkonvinċew lil ħadd. Iktar kien qiesu tidwir mal-lewza. Chris Said ressaq emenda biex jiċċara dan il-punt. L-emenda m’għaddietx.

Jiena esprimejt l-opinjoni li l-emenda ta’ Chris Said ma kienx hemm bżonnha għax id-definizzjoni tal-kelma donazzjoni hi ċara ħafna fil-liġi u bl-ebda mod ma teskludi propjeta tal-Gvern. Fil-fatt id-definizzjoni ta’ donazzjoni tibda b’dawn il-kelmiet:

“donazzjoni” tfisser kull benefiċċju riċevut fir-rigward tal-attivitajiet jew il-funzjonijiet ta’ partit politiku, minn jew f’isem partit politiku, minn membru ta’ partit politiku, minn kandidat jew minn xi organizzazzjoni, kemm jekk tkun korporata jew le li fiha l-partit politiku, direttament jew indirettament jeżerċita amministrazzjoni effettiva u kontoll u għandha tinkludi, sakemm ma jiġix provdut mod ieħor………….:”

 

Dawn huma tnejn mill-affarijiet li l-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi ma tikkunsidrax sewwa. Ħasra kbira. Għax l-isforz kbir li sar minn bosta seta ta’ riżultati aħjar.

Pass kbir il-quddiem

Financing of Political Parties Act

Fil-Parlament il-bieraħ fil-għaxija ġiet fi tmiemha d-diskussjoni dwar il-liġi dwar il-Finanzjament tal-Partiti. Dan sar fil-kumitat permanenti li jikkunsidra l-liġijiet.

F’isem Alternattiva Demokratika jiena kont mistieden nieħu sehem f’din id-diskussjoni li ilha sejra diversi ġimgħat. F’din id-diskussjoni l-abbozz ta’ liġi ġie analizzat kelma kelma. Forsi virgola, virgola ukoll.

Għalkemm hemm affarijiet fil-liġi li setgħu saru aħjar, inkluż uħud li għal Alternattiva Demokratika m’humiex aċċettabbli, fi tmiem id-diskussjoni l-abbozz ta’ liġi  xorta hu wieħed aħjar milli kif kien imfassal oriġinalment.

L-oġġezzjoni prinċipali ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika hija dwar ir-regolatur. Jiġifieri dwar min ser ikollu l-awtorità li jara li l-liġi taħdem sewwa u li tkun osservata. Sa mill-bidu nett tad-diskussjoni l-Gvern ippropona li din l-awtorità regolatorja tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

L-oġġezzjoni ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika hi ibbażata fuq il-mod kif inhi magħmula l-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Din fiha 9 membri. Erba’ minnhom jaħtarhom il-Prim Ministru. Erba’ oħra jaħtarhom il-Kap tal-Opposizzjoni. Id-disa’ membru jaħtru l-Gvern tal-ġurnata għax ikun l-impjegat tal-Gvern li jmexxi x-xogħol amministrattiv kollu tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali. Il-Kummissjoni Elettorali, mela, hi magħmula minn rappreżentanti taż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament.

Diġa hi problema kbira li ż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament għandhom f’idejhom kontroll esklussiv tal-proċess kollu elettorali. Problema li tittaffa ftit bil-fatt li l-liġijiet elettorali jidħlu f’ħafna dettall u ankè jorbtu idejn il-Kummissjoni Elettorali kważi f’kollox.

Imma fil-każ tal-finanzjament tal-partiti ser ikun hemm ħafna affarijiet li ser ikunu jeħtieġu diskrezzjoni. Ser ikun hemm bżonn interpretazzjoni u ser ikun hemm bżonn deċiżjonijiet. Kulħadd hu tad-demm u l-laħam u wisq nibża’ li dan ser ikun rifless fid-deċiżjonijiet li jittieħdu.

Kien ikun ħafna aħjar kieku flok il-Kummissjoni Elettorali bħala awtorità regolatorja intagħżel il-Kummissarju għall-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, kariga li ser tinħoloq permezz ta’ liġi oħra li għadha pendenti fuq l-aġenda Parlamentari. Min jokkupa din il-kariga ser jintagħżel mill-Parlament u biex jintagħżel ikun jeħtieġlu l-appoġġ ta’ mhux inqas minn żewġ terzi tal-Membri tal-Parlament. B’dan l-appoġġ, min ser jokkupa din il-kariga bil-fors li jkun persuna li tispira fiduċja u għaldaqstant tkun persuna aċċettabbli ukoll biex tkun l-awtorità li tieħu ħsieb l-amministrazzjoni tal-liġi li tirregola l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi. Din kienet il-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika, li iktar tard kisbet ukoll l-appoġġ tal-Partit Nazzjonalista.

Il-Gvern qatt ma qal li ma jaqbilx mal-proposta ta’ Alternattiva Demokratika. Qal biss li kien jippreferi li l-awtorità regolatorja tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali għax kien mgħaġġel. Kellu l-GRECO tal-Kunsill tal-Ewropa (Group of States Against Corruption) jiġri warajh u għaldaqstant ma kellux ċans joqgħod jibni l-istrutturi (institution building)!

Il-liġi probabbilment li tibda taħdem ftit xhur oħra. Il-partiti ser ikunu meħtieġa li jkollhom il-kontijiet tagħhom ivverifikati (audited). Ser ikun meħtieġ ukoll li kull sena jippreżentaw rapport dwar id-donazzjonijiet li jirċievu. Iridu ukoll jippubblikaw l-ismijiet ta’ dawk il-persuni li  fuq perjodu ta’ tnax-il xahar ikunu taw donazzjoni lill-partiti politiċi bejn €7,000 u €25,000. Ħadd ma jista’ jagħti donazzjoni ta’ iktar minn €25,000 f’sena, u għaldaqstant l-ebda partit politiku ma jista’ jaċċetta donazzjoni ta’ din ix-xorta.

Il-kontrolli, rapporti, verifiki u poteri tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li tinvestiga huma kollha intenzjonati li jkun assigurat li jkun hemm trasparenza sħiħa fil-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi u li din it-trasparenza twassal ukoll għal politka iktar nadifa.

Naslu? Issa naraw. Imma nemmen li bil-mod il-mod naslu ukoll.

Nemmen li bid-difetti b’kollox li fiha l-liġi din hi pass kbir il-quddiem.

€40,000 nefqa fl-elezzjoni ġenerali

euros2

Kandidat fl-elezzjoni ġenerali issa ser ikun jista’ jonfoq sa massimu ta’ €40,000 fil-kampanja elettorali fl-elezzjoni ġenerali, jekk jikkontesta fuq żewġ distretti.

Dan joħroġ mil-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti li issa waslet fl-aħħar stadji biex tkun approvata mill-Parlament u tidħol fis-seħħ matul ix-xhur li ġejjin.

Għal uħud li kandidat jonfoq €40,000 f’kampanja elettorali hu aċċettabbli.

F’Alternattiva Demokratika naħsbu li dan l-ammont hu wieħed esaġerat.  Ħarsa madwarna turi li dawn l-ammonti intefqu fil-passat, probabbilment li intefqu iktar ukoll. Imma li issa l-liġi ser tippermetti dan l-infieq ifisser li l-infieq esaġerat ser isir aċċettabbli ukoll.

Huwa żball li jkun inkoraġġit dan l-infieq kollu.

Sal-lum l-infieq permissibli kien €1,400 (Lm600). Alternattiva Demokratika jidhrilha li infieq sa massimu ta’ €4,000 kien ikun ħafna iktar ragjonevoli għal kull kandidat.

Trying to squeeze out the small political parties?

Financing of Political Parties ActStandards in Public Life Bill

 

Legislation regulating the financing of political parties in Malta is long overdue. Alternattiva Demokratika has been harping on about this subject since its foundation in 1989 and has referred  to it in all the general election campaigns since.

Former MP Franco Debono has been a driving force over the last few years in ensuring that the financing of political parties has been an item retained on the national agenda.

The Parliamentary Committee for the consideration of Bills is currently examining the Financing of Political Parties Bill in detail. On behalf of Alternattiva Demokratika, I had the opportunity to be present at a number of sittings and also participated in the ensuing discussion after being invited to do so by the Parliamentary Committee.

While the general thrust of the Bill is reasonable, it contains three basic mistakes which, if unchecked, will impact the whole regulatory process. The first is over-regulation. The second is the retention of absolute control directly in the hands of representatives of the Parliamentary political parties which, in turn, leads to the third fault- this being a one-size-fits-all template.

I will take each in turn.

The over-regulating aspect of the Bill has been watered down, as  Minister Owen Bonnici was very flexible when faced with this criticism. He accepted various amendments to the Bill, scaling down  various  provisions relating to the proposed regulation of political parties.

The government is proposing that the regulating authority on party political financing should be the Electoral Commission. It attempts to justify its stance by pointing out  that the General Elections Act already assigns responsibility to the Electoral Commission to receive, and where necessary vet, the expenses made and donations received by candidates in general, local and European elections in Malta. However, Minister Owen Bonnici, who is piloting the Bill,  was not in a position to explain why the Electoral Commission had never taken any action when faced with a blatant disregard for the rules by candidates in past elections.

The alternative proposal, initially piloted by Alternattiva Demokratika but subsequently also taken up by the PN Opposition, would see the regulatory authority on political party financing vested in the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. This Commissioner would be a  Parliamentary Official, to be elected subject to the support of two-thirds of Members of Parliament when the Standards in Public Life Bill, currently pending on Parliament’s agenda, is approved. Enjoying the support of two-thirds of MPs would signify that the person selected would enjoy widespread support and consequently his or her moral authority would be substantial and effective.

During the discussion Minister Owen Bonnici declared that the Council of Europe’s GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption) was  breathing down his neck  and consequently the government could not afford to await alternative institution building.

A major stumbling block is the composition of the Electoral Commission itself. This is determined in the Constitution, with four of its members being nominated by the Prime Minister and  another four members  being nominated by the Leader of the Opposition. The chairman of the Electoral Commission is always a civil servant nominated by the Prime Minister. This signifies that the parliamentary political parties, through their absolute control of the Electoral Commission, end up regulating themselves through their nominees. But what is even worse is the fact that they also control the regulatory process for all other political parties which may consider registering.

It seems that this rigid control of the regulatory process by the parliamentary political parties is not enough.  To be sure of tightening even further the resulting control, the Financing of Political Parties Bill also adopts a one-size fits-all template. It does this by ignoring reality and makes no distinction between the political parties having seven-digit turnover and the rest. Nor does it distinguish between the political parties run by full-time professionals paid for their services, at least in part through funds arising from donations, and political parties run by volunteers with an annual turnover averaging €10,000. The one-size-fits-all approach is, however, not extended to state financing. For the past 20 years, both the Nationalist Party and the Labour Party parliamentary groups have been receiving €100,000 in public funds annually.

The proposed  rigid reporting and auditing requirements that may be reasonable for political parties with seven-digit budgets are certainly quite unreasonable for a political party such as Alternattiva Demokratika, run by volunteers on a shoestring budget which averages €10,000 annually.

The limited administrative capacity of small parties is not factored in the Bill under consideration.

The end result may well be that there will be considerable administrative difficulties for political parties not presently in parliament to register as political parties once the Bill under discussion becomes law. (It has to be borne in mind that only political parties registered in terms of an eventual   Financing of Political Parties Act will be able to present candidates in all elections in Malta. All other candidates will be considered as independent candidates and grouped together at the lower part of the ballot paper.)

Mixed messages have come through during the debate on this Bill. Unfortunately, however, the message at these final stages is that there is also a clear but undeclared objective of the Financing of Political Parties Bill– to squeeze out the small political parties.

In the coming months we will see whether this undeclared objective can be overcome.

published in The Malta Independent on Sunday, 5 July 2015

 

 

Il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi: Ħtieġa ta’ kunsens wiesa’

Hisilicon K3

L-editorjal tat-Times tal-lum jitkellem dwar is-sorveljanza tal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi. Suġġett traskurat għal snin twal u li llum dwaru fil-Parlament għaddejja diskussjoni dwar abbozz ta’ liġi. Dwar dan l-abbozz, u l-fatt li wasalna sa hawn, kif diġà għedt drabi oħra, għandu mertu kemm Franco Debono kif ukoll il-Gvern tal-lum.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha ukoll is-snin titkellem dwar il-materja. Dan għamlitu sa mill-ewwel programm elettorali tagħha fl-elezzjoni ġenerali tal-1992, l-ewwel darba li kkontestat elezzjoni ġenerali. Bħala AD ppubblikajna żewġ dokumenti dwar il-proposti li għandu quddiemu llum il-Parlament. L-ewwel wieħed kien dokument bir-reazzjonijiet ta’ AD għall-White Paper. Sussegwentement ħejjejna u ppubblikajna wkoll dokument bi tweġiba għall-proposti kif dettaljati fl-abbozz ta’ liġi.

Fil-prinċipju l-abbozz ta’ liġi ppreżentat hu tajjeb imma jirrikjedi diversi emendi.

Preżentament, fil-fatt, l-abbozz qiegħed jiġi diskuss fil-Kumitat Parlamentari dwar il-Liġijiet. Jiena qed nieħu sehem f’din id-diskussjoni u dan għax intlaqgħet it-talba ta’ AD għal parteċipazzjoni f’din id-diskussjoni u ġejt mistieden biex inkun nista’ nieħu sehem fiha.

Id-diskussjoni fil-Kumitat Parlamentari issa waslet bejn wieħed u ieħor sa nofs l-abbozz tal-liġi u nista’ ngħid li f’ħafna każi l-abbozz ġie mtejjeb billi ġew ikkunsidrati bis-serjetà d-diversi proposti li saru. Dan iżda ma sarx għall-iktar punt importanti tal-liġi. Il-Gvern, permezz tal-Ministru Owen Bonnici, ma jridx jiċċaqlaq mill-proposta li l-awtorità li tirregola l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi tkun il-Kummissjoni Elettorali.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha xhur twal issa li għamlet il-proposta li flok il-Kummissjoni Elettorali l-awtorità regolatorja għandha tkun f’idejn il-Kummissarju tal-Istandards fil-Ħajja Pubblika, uffiċjal parlamentari li dwaru hemm abbozz ta’ liġi pendenti fuq l-aġenda parlamentari. Hu propost f’dan l-abbozz li dan l-uffiċjal jinħatar bil-kunsens ta’ żewġ terzi tal-membri parlamentari. B’hekk ikun hemm kunsens wiesa’ fuq il-persuna li tinħatar li bla dubju taġixxi lil hinn mill-influwenza tal-partiti politiċi kollha.

Kien għalhekk ta’ sodisfazzjon li sussegwentment anke l-Partit Nazzjonalista adotta l-istess pożizzjoni u insista fuq dan waqt id-diskussjoni fil-Parlament.

Imma l-Gvern ma jaqbilx ma’ dan għal żewġ raġunijiet. L-ewwel qed jgħid li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi struttura eżistenti u għalhekk għax hu mgħaġġel biex iħaddem il-liġi l-ġdida [għax qed jiġri warajh il-GRECO mill-Kunsill tal-Ewropa: GRECO = Group of States Against Corruption] jippreferi jagħmel użu mill-Kummissjoni Elettorali. It-tieni, il-Gvern qed jgħid li l-Kummissjoni Elettorali hi korp kostituzzjonali li diġà in parti għandu responsabbiltajiet dwar il-finanzjament tal-politika u dan għax “suppost” li diġà jissorvelja l-infiq tal-kandidati fl-elezzjonijiet diversi.

Sfortunatement il-Gvern qed jinjora l-fatt li kif komposta l-Kummissjoni Elettorali, għal raġunijiet storiċi, hi dominata minn rappreżentanza tal-partiti politiċi fil-parlament [4 mill-PN, 4 mill-PL u Chairman miċ-Ċivil magħżul mill-Gvern tal-ġurnata]. Dan ifisser li l-partiti politiċi fil-parlament għandhom aċċess għall-informazzjoni fuq il-partiti l-oħra li mhumiex u per konsegwenza kontroll sħiħ fuq il-proċess kollu.

Jagħmel tajjeb il-Gvern kieku jfittex kunsens anke fuq dan il-punt, kif wara kollox għamel b’suċċess fuq partijiet oħra tal-liġi.

ippubblikat fuq iNews l-Erbgħa 1 ta’ Lulju 2015

When the Labour Party (of Malta) was in favour of state financing of political parties

 euros floating in space

Labour makes €7.2 million State funding proposal

Labour is proposing that political parties receive an annual contribution from the State of €5 for each vote obtained at the last general election – a move that would cost the taxpayer €7.2 million over five years.

The PL is also insisting that political parties should disclose the identity of those making donations above a certain amount and has proposed that the Auditor General audits the accounts of both parties.

The proposals, still at an embryonic stage, were made behind closed doors during a Parliamentary Select Committee meeting after being discussed internally within the PL.

Should the €5 contribution suggestion be approved by the Nationalist Party, the PN would receive €717,340 each year, the PL €709,440, Alternattiva Demokratika €19,050, and Azzjoni Nazzjonali €7,305. The PL proposed that the €5 figure should be retroactive, starting from 2008, and amended every year according to the rate of inflation, sources told The Sunday Times. The money raised would go towards parties’ salaries, research and consultation.

The two main political parties already each receive €100,000 a year from the public coffers, although there seems to be little accountability over how it is spent.

The figures being suggested largely draw on the proposals made by the Galdes Commission in 1995. The PL maintains that donations of over €23,000 should be prohibited and that those over €11,600 be accompanied by the name of the donor. However, it also suggests these donation thresholds should eventually be raised by 50 per cent.

Labour’s position paper was tabled by MP Charles Mangion, but he was reluctant to give details when contacted.

“The committee had unanimously agreed that only the Speaker shall comment on specifics of discussions – and this in order to ensure a successful outcome out of the discussions,” he said.

Dr Mangion said his party believed that State funding, coupled with wide-ranging transparency rules, were the best way to ensure that political parties did not succumb to external pressures of interest groups that may subsidise them.

“This, we believe, will enhance public trust in political parties and would be healthy to the development of democracy and good governance.”

Labour, he said, agreed that there was a need for greater transparency and that donations over a particular threshold should be identified.

A top PL official, who preferred to remain unnamed, said that the Nationalists were reluctant to accept Labour’s proposal because it did not suit them.

“The PN is against State funding, but it wants much higher thresholds for party donations. We have a problem with money, they have a problem with transparency,” he said.

PN general secretary Paul Borg Olivier said the party considered it a priority to tackle transparency in political party funding, including donations, as suggested by the Galdes Report.

He said Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi recently indicated he was in favour of drastically lowering the benchmark for declared donations.

Dr Borg Olivier said his party would honour its commitment to the Speaker that it should not comment publicly on what was being discussed during the Select Committee meetings.

“This is precisely why (Labour leader Joseph) Muscat’s statements during the general conference come as a surprise. His statement that he is in favour of taxpayers’ money being used to finance political parties is uncalled for and unacceptable.”

Dr Muscat recently renewed his call for a law on party funding, though he was short on detail. His University thesis in 1996 had specifically tackled the issue of State funding, and his conclusion was that political parties in Malta should benefit from it.

It is an open secret that both parties are experiencing financial problems, though sources said Labour’s finances were in dire straits. Former PN general secretary Joe Saliba had said in 2006 that Labour’s debts amounted to €7 million (Lm3 million).

The Nationalists traditionally raise far higher sums than Labour during the annual fundraising marathons and the party’s companies raise enough money to deal with the day-to-day costs.

Dr Borg Olivier said: “The party has substantial amounts of money still payable to creditors, including banks. These amounts cover expenses incurred during the election campaign and the building of the new headquarters.”

On the other hand, Dr Mangion said Labour was the only party whose accounts were audited by a reputable independent auditing firm.

“Labour’s financial statement is published annually… we know nothing about the PN’s finances.”

However, sources said there were various ways in which political parties could conceal their debts as well as the names of donors.

 

published in The Sunday Times 15 February 2009. Author Herman Grech.