Girgenti: demarcation line between party and state

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Meeting the Chief Electoral Commissioner Mr Joseph Church last Tuesday, together with Arnold Cassola, I raised the issue of the use of the Inquisitor’s Palace at Girgenti by the Labour Party Parliamentary Group for one of its meetings.  Some may consider that Alternattiva Demokratika is splitting hairs when raising the matter. I beg to differ as a basic principle is at stake: the demarcation line separating government from the governing party.

To what extent should the affairs of the government be administered separately from those of the governing party? This is what lies at the core of the complaint submitted by the Greens to the Chief Electoral Commissioner for investigation in terms of the provisions of the Financing of Political Parties Act.

The Act to regulate the financing of political parties was introduced to ensure that party financing was subject to transparency rules. It also establishes no-go areas. Amongst other matters the 2015 legislation provides in its article 34  that political parties should not accept donations from the state. There are no exceptions to this rule.

In terms of the Financing of Political Parties Act, a donation is not just pecuniary in nature. Whenever a political party purchases a product or a service at a reduced price it would be in receipt of a donation. The quantum of the donation would be equivalent to the reduction in price of the product or service received.  On the other hand if a political party acquires a product or a service without paying its commercial price, then, the value of the donation received amounts to the full price of the said product or service.

This is exactly what happened when the Labour Party Parliamentary Group made use of the Prime Minister’s official residence at the Girgenti Inquisitor’s Palace. The Parliamentary Group received the service of a meeting place without payment. Hence its being considered as a donation.

The Prime Minister does not have the authority to make such donations. His actions in this respect are restricted by law which was presented and approved in Parliament by the government he leads and entered in force as on 1 January 2016.  Some have argued that this is not the first time that such meetings were so organised. This may be so. It is precisely for this purpose that the legislation was enacted in order to prevent its reoccurrence. One should not propose such legislation and then be the first to ignore it!

Government and the governing political party should be separate and distinct. When such distinction is not clear, even in the case of minor matters, this would be a very bad indication. It would signal that the resources of the state are not being managed appropriately. It would be wrong to ignore such signals indicating the existence of minor problems as these will, if ignored, subsequently spread to more substantial matters. It would then be too late to act.

The party in Government forms the Government of the day but should be separate and distinct from it at all times.

Hence the need for the Electoral Commission to act immediately. The separation between government and the governing political party is a basic principle in a healthy democracy.

published in The Malta Independent : Thursday 23 February 2017

Mill-Bank of Vassallo għaċ-ċedoli 2016

Bank of Vassallo

Qabel l-elezzjoni ġenerali li għaddiet il-Partit Nazzjonalista kien issellef kwart ta’ miljun euro mingħand Żaren Vassallo. Dakinnhar kien intqal li dak is-self kien ta’ natura kummerċjali. Ma kien ippubblikat xejn u allura xejn m’hu magħruf dwar dan is-self: la l-kundizzjonijiet u l-anqas jekk tħallasx lura, inkella jekk inħafirx.

Din hi informazzjoni li l-Partit Nazzjonalista għandu l-obbligu morali li jagħti.

Issa l-PN beda skema ta’ self imsejħa ċedoli 2016 li permezz tagħha numru ta’ persuni jsellfu €10,000 (r-ras) għal għaxar snin u ta’ dan jitħallsu imgħax ta’4% fis-sena.

Il-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi li daħlet fis-seħħ fl-1 ta’ Jannar li għadda tirregola s-self li jagħmlu l-partiti politiċi b‘mod limitat. Dan tagħmlu billi jekk fost il-kundizzjonijiet tas-self ikun hemm kundizzjonijiet favorevoli, il-vantaġġi li jakkwista l-partit jitqiesu bħala donazzjoni, u  allura jkunu regolati skond ir-regoli tad-donazzjonijiet. L-ammonti ta’ interessi huma żgħar (€400 kull ċedola fis-sena) u l-vantaġġi minn kull ċedola li jistgħu jitqiesu bħala donazzjoni huma għaldaqstant ferm żgħar. Dan meta tqabblu mal-ammont ta’ €7,000 fis-sena li hu l-ammont li jekk jinqabeż bħala donazzjoni (minn persuna waħda f’sena) jkun meħtieġ li jkun dikjarat (anke l-isem tal-persuna li tagħmel id-donazzjoni tkun ippubblikata).

Il-mistoqsijiet li qed isiru huma diversi. Fosthom hemm mistoqsija dwar jekk il-lista tal-ismijiet ta’ dawk li ser isellfu lill-PN hiex ser tkun ippubblikata. Il-liġi li approva l-Parlament fl-2015 ma toħloqx dan l-obbligu. Imma huwa ċar li l-lista ma tistax tkun sigrieta. L-awdituri tal-PN ser jagħmlu l-verifiki tagħhom. Biex jagħmlu dawn il-verifiki jkun meħtieġ  li jeżaminaw id-dokumentazzjoni dwar iċ-ċedoli. L-istess jistgħu jagħmlu l-awdituri tal-Kummissjoni Elettorali li ukoll għandhom l-awtorità li jagħmlu l-verifika jekk ikun hemm ħtieġa għal dan.

Dan naħseb li mhux biżżejjed u jkun għaqli li l-liġi tkun emendata biex dawn it-tip ta’ skemi ta’ self ikunu trasparenti. B’żieda ma dan,  l-obbligu li l-flus jintraddu lura għandu jkun garantit, preferibilment b’insurance. Dejjem sakemm ma jkunux garantiti mill-Bank of Vassallo.