Meta ser tiġbru lura dawk l-€4 miljuni?

euros floating in space

Issa li l-Gvern iddikjara li ma jaqbilx mal-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat, jista’ xi ħadd għan-nom tal-Gvern jgħidilna meta ser jinġabru lura l-€4 miljuni li matul dawn l-aħħar għoxrin sena ingħataw lill-PN u lill-PL?

€100,000 għall-PN u €100,000 oħra għall-PL kull sena mill-1994 sal-lum jammontaw għal-€4 miljuni.

Ta’ l-inqas għandna d-dritt li nistennew li tkunu konsistenti!

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B’id waħda jgħid le u bl-oħra jgħid iva

Bonnici.fpp

 

Fi stqarrija għall-istampa l-Ministru għall-Ġustizzja Owen Bonnici wieġeb għall-istqarrija tal-Partit Nazzjonalista dwar il-ħtieġa li l-istat għandu jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi.

Owen qal li issa mhux il-waqt.

Issa, qal Owen, hu meħtieġ li tgħaddi l-liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi u wara numru ta’ snin taħdem sewwa, imbagħad ikun  il-mument li nikkunsidraw jekk, meta u kif għandu jsir il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat.

Owen għandu żball. Għax il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat Malti diġa qiegħed isir. Ilu jsir 20 sena u jibbenefikaw minnu biss il-PN u l-PL.

Biċċa xogħol għal Owen biex isib tarf ta’ din il-problema: min-naħa waħda l-Gvern tiegħu jgħid li għalissa ma jridx jagħti finanzi lill-partiti politiċi u min-naħa l-oħra fil-budget ta’ kull sena l-Gvern stess jagħti €100,000 lill-Partit Nazzjonalista u €100,000 lill-Partit Laburista.

B’id waħda l-Gvern qiegħed jgħid le u bl-oħra qiegħed jgħid iva.

Iva jew le?

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The Financing of Political Parties: (9) Conclusion.

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It is necessary that the law on the financing of political parties which Alternattiva Demokratika has campaigned in favour of for the past 25 years is not one which only establishes the administrative burdens which should be shouldered to ensure the financial accountability of political parties through an administrative transparency. Together with the administrative burdens we expect the assistance required to shoulder the burden. If this is not done it would signify that those who through the years were  extra careful such that in the absence of a regulatory structure they were not dependent on political donations will be punished.

Alternattiva Demokratika agrees in principle with the Bill under consideration. It also agrees, as explained in detail in previous blogposts with a large part of the details in the Bill. We feel however that its basic defect should be addressed. It is essential that the control exercised is proportional and related to the size of the political parties. It is also necessary that the regulatory authority identified is one which inspires such confidence as a result of which everyone is convinced that no political party is disadvantaged at the starting line.

If this is done we would be able to state that in Malta, at last, the financing of political parties is being seriously dealt with.

The Financing of Political Parties: (8) The Bill. State financing.

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The Bill is christened as a law on the Financing of Political Parties. However whilst it deals with many issues it fails to address financing.

Alternattiva Demokratika draws attention that the Maltese state already finances political parties. For many years, since the 1990s this financing has been limited to the Parliamentary political parties. In the last estimates approved by Parliament for 2014, for example, in the budget’s line item 5298 Parliament approved the sum of €200,000 with the following description : Development of relations with E.U. and the Mediterranean region by Political Groupings in Parliament.  These are monies which the taxpayer already pays unto Parliamentary political parties every year. (To date the PN and the PL have each collected around  €2,000,000 from the state coffers.)

This is not the only state financing already in hand. As explained in a press release[1] for many years, out of the funds allocated to MEUSAC 4 organisations, namely Union Ħaddiema Magħqudin (UĦM), General Retailers and Traders Union (GRTU), Malta Employers Association (MEA) and General Workers Union (GWU) each receive an annual allocation of €58,200.

The state also assists various constituted bodies, including NGOs, through specific agreements which facilitate state paid employees assisting these organisations whilst they are still paid by the state.

All the above is already being implemented.

Alternattiva Demokratika would have no difficulty in shouldering the administrative responsibilities spelled out in the Bill under consideration if it too is treated similarly and receives financial assistance which the PN, the PL and the organisations referred to above have been receiving for a substantial number of years.

 

[1] Press release issued by the Department of information on 26 September 2013 with reference PR 2055 entitled : Press Statement by Dr Vanni Xuereb, Head of MEUSAC.  Accessible at http://www.meusac.gov.mt/prs2013

 

The Financing of Political Parties: (7) The Bill. The role of the treasurer

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The Bill, as is reasonable, identifies the person responsible for the administration of the finances of political parties as that person who should not only shoulder responsibilities towards the political party of which he is an officer but also towards the community. The central reporting requirement on which the Bill is based is focused on the person of the Treasurer. This person shall be responsible for substantial administrative duties with administrative and criminal penalties in case of infringements.  This signifies that the person having the role of Treasurer would require being backed up administratively by a technical team to maintain the financial records to be in line with the requirements of the law. This will translate into expenses which a political party which is run professionally already caters for. It is a known fact that the political parties in Malta for whom this Bill has been designed already have an administrative setup which is financed by the donations which they receive on a regular basis.

The Financing of Political Parties: (6) The Bill. Expenditure during electoral campaigns

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The Bill revises the amounts which is permissible to spend during an electoral campaign.

Today, in a general election, the permissible expenditure for a candidate is €1,400 irrespective of whether he/she contests one or two electoral districts. The Bill proposes a revision of this amount to €20,000 for each Electoral District contested.  Alternattiva Demokratika considers that this amount is too much on the high side. It is of the opinion that a reasonable amount should be  €4,000.

With respect to the election for the European Parliament the Bill recommends that the current limit of slightly over €18,000 should be revised to €50,000.  Alternattiva Demokratika considers that this amount is too much on the high side. It is of the opinion that a reasonable amount should be  €20,000.

In elections for Local Councils today’s permissible limit for expenditure is €1,400 per candidate. The Bill recommends that this amount should be revised to €5,000 per candidate. Alternattiva Demokratika considers that this amount is too much on the high side. It is of the opinion that a reasonable amount should be between €2,000 and €4,000 depending on the Local Council being contested.

Alternattiva Demokratika considers that it would also be advisable that the expenditure of political parties in an electoral campaign is regulated. This is not addressed in the Bill accept through the publication of audited accounts.  We consider it advisable that the expenditure of political parties in an electoral campaign are regulated in the same manner as is proposed for individual candidates.

The Financing of Political Parties: (5) The Bill. Accumulated public property

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Clause 35 of the Bill specifies that there can be no donations originating from public bodies unless there is a specific authorisation in a legal instrument. There is reference to broadcasting as an example.

There is however public property which political parties have been accumulating primarily for use as party political clubs. This is not addressed by the Bill. It is necessary to ensure at all times that rent paid for the use of public property is commercial. This is to be done through administrative measures, ad hoc measures if necessary.  A mechanism for the regular revision of rents has to be introduced.

The Financing of Political Parties: (4) The Bill. Donations, loans and investments

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In respect of donations, loans and investments the Bill is a substantial improvement on the proposals made in the White Paper. Further improvement could be made through reducing unnecessary paperwork. For example there is no need to have three reports every year on donations, when one would  be sufficient.

The permissible thresholds on anonymous donations has been substantially reduced from what was originally proposed in the White Paper from €500 to €50 per annum. This is positive.  It is likewise positive that donations between €50 and €500 per annum instead of being anonymous will now be considered confidentially and documented and hence will be subject to the audit process. Alternattiva Demokratika is satisfied that its insistence on this point has not been in vain. It is likewise positive that even the threshold of donations registered internally in political parties has been revised. The acceptable range in the White Paper was between €500 and  €10,000. This has now been revised to between €500 and €7,000 per annum. This means that the permissible maximum of donations which can be accepted without being declared has been reduced from  €10,000 to €7,000.

There were additional changes on donations. The maximum donation which can be accepted has been reduced from €50,000 to €40,000 per annum  such that the declarable donations received in respect of which the regulatory authority is to be notified and which would eventually be made public would be all the donations in the €7,000 to €40,000 range.

It has also been observed that the Bill is much more clear in respect of loans to political parties which are not on commercial terms. Even this is an improvement on what was originally proposed in the White Paper.

However the Bill makes no direct reference to commercial companies held and run by political parties.

The utilisation of the resources of commercial companies by political parties could be another channel for donations both if it is an issue of utilisation of human resources as well as if it is a use of services with rates which are not commercial. Whilst this consideration may result from the Bill in an indirect manner it would be much better if specific provisions regulating the commercial investments of political parties are introduced.

It has to be ensured that the management of commercial companies as well as all commercial activities of political parties are separate and distinct from the management of the political parties. Political parties should not be in a position as a result of which they can conceal information by classifying it as being commercially sensitive.

The above does not result from the Bill under consideration.

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

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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.

 

 

The Financing of Political Parties: (1) Introduction

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Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party, since being founded in 1989, twenty five years ago, has always emphasised that the financing of political parties must be transparent and accountable. In fact, in the Declaration of Political Principles, approved by Alternattiva Demokratika just after it was founded it was declared that:

“ ………… we shall strive in order that a law is enacted as a result of which political parties declare the source of their finances. In addition we shall insist that Government grants financial assistance to political parties which assistance will be calculated on the basis of votes obtained in national and local elections.”

In addition to this declaration, commitment to transparency and accountability was also demonstrated by Alternattiva Demokratika through its continuous exposure of case where business and politics were to close for comfort

In its 2013 Electoral Manifesto  Alternattiva Demokratika was more focused on the need to finance political parties. Alternattiva Demokratika’s Electoral Manifesto in Chapter 6 entitled “Constitutional and Democratic reforms” presented five proposals:

    1. Strict rules on donations, which would require the disclosure of donations higher than €5,000 and the prohibition of donations which exceed €40,000.
    2. State financing of political parties through a grant of €3 per annum for every vote which political parties obtain in a General Election or a European Parliament Election.
    3. Every political party is to have its accounts audited under the supervision of a Commission appointed by the Auditor General.
    4. The permissible expenditure of a candidate in a general elections should be increased from €1,400 to €4,000 which expenditure should include that made by the candidate’s political party divided pro-rata amongst the candidates, that such expenditure should include that made by third parties on behalf of candidates, and that the expenditure made by candidates should be tax-exempt provided that it is within the limits established by law.
    5. There should be established a Commission to determine the value of state property rented out to political parties and that such Commission should revise the rental values to market levels on a regular basis.