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!

 

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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

 

 

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.

 

Meta il-Partit Laburista ried €5 għal kull vot kull sena

five euroLabour's 5 euro proposal 

source: the price tag of democracy

Id-dibattitu fil-Parlament, f’dawn il-ġranet, dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi hu wieħed li ilu ħafna snin biex isir. Tul is-snin kien hemm ħafna tkaxkir tas-saqajn li ippospona din id-diskussjoni.

Biżżejjed insemmu r-rapport Galdes tal-1995 li dwaru baqa’ ma sar xejn.

Il-bieraħ ġie fi tmiemu l-fażi tat-tieni qari, jiġifieri d-diskussjoni dwar il-prinċipji tal-liġi. Smajna minn kollox. Kien hemm diskorsi utli li bla dubju taw kontribut biex id-diskussjoni tkun waħda matura. Fosthom id-diskorsi ta’ Mario de Marco, Michael Falzon u Owen Bonnici.

Kien hemm ukoll bosta diskorsi li saru għall-gallarija. Ma taw l-ebda kontribut partikolari ħlief li rrepetew il-paroli li ilna nisimgħu. Bl-intenzjoni unika li jiskurjaw il-punti politiċi.

Il-liġi tipproponi limiti dwar x’donazzjonijiet jistgħu jirċievu l-partiti politiċi. Tobbliga lill-istess partiti illi jkollhom verifika tal-kotba kif ukoll tintroduċi miżuri biex il-partiti politiċi jkunu reġistrati.

Alternattiva Demokratika ilha sa mit-twaqqif tagħha fl-1989 titkellem dwar dawn il-miżuri.

Il-liġi preżentment quddiem il-Parlament hi imsejħa liġi dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti. Iżda titkellem fuq kollox ħlief dwar il-finanzjament tal-partiti. Il-Gvern diġa ddikjara li l-finanzjament pubbliku tal-partiti politiċi mhux fuq l-aġenda għalissa. Qed jgħid li dan il-finanzjament  pubbliku jkun fuq l-aġenda iktar tard, meta tkun bdiet titħaddem din il-liġi u tkun bdiet tagħti l-frott.

Filwaqt li Alternattiva Demokratika dejjem tkellmet favur il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat tajjeb li niftakru li sa Marzu 2013 anke l-Partit Laburista kien idoqq din id-diska.  Il-proposta tal-Partit Laburista qabel Marzu 2013 kienet ta’ finanzjament pubbliku ta’ €5 għal kull vot kull sena. Issa l-Partit Laburista bidel il-posizzjoni tiegħu.  Anke l-PN bidel il-posizzjoni tiegħu: sa Marzu 2013 kien kontra l-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat imma issa mirakolożament hu favur!

M’hemmx serjeta’ da parti kemm tal-Partit Laburista kif ukoll tal-Partit Nazzjonalista għax dawn konvenjentement jibdlu l-veduti tagħom skond jekk ikunux fil-Gvern jew fl-Opposizzjoni.

Li m’humiex jgħidu kemm il-PN kif ukoll il-PL hu li kull sena fil-budget kull wieħed miż-żewġ partiti fil-Parlament jingħataw €200,000 bejniethom. Dawn il-flus ilhom jeħduhom sa mill-1994. Għall-bidu kienu jeħduhom dwar il-ħidma politika tagħhom in konnessjoni mal-Parlament Ewropew. Iktar tard l-applikabilita’ tal-fondi ġiet imwessa’ għall-ħidma internazzjonali tal-Partiti. Dan ifissser li bejniethom il-partiti fil-Parlament s’issa ħadu €4 miljuni. Dawn ukoll huma flus mit-taxxi li dwarhom ma kellhomx diffikulta biex idaħħluhom fil-but.

Jiena ltqajt diversi drabi mal-Ministru Owen Bonnici u miegħu iddiskutejt il-liġi li qed jipproponi. F’isem Alternattiva Demokratika tajtu ukoll proposti dettaljati dwar kif il-liġi proposta tista’ tkun aħjar.  Il-liġi hi pass tajjeb il-quddiem. Imma mhiex biżżejjed. Tista’ tkun ukoll aħjar.

Ċertament li hi ħafna l-bogħod mill-€5 kull sena għal kull vot li l-Partit Laburista kien jipproponi qabel Marzu 2013.

ippubblikat ukoll fuq iNews is-Sibt 15 ta’ Novembru 2014

Il-PN u l-PL jaqsmu bejniethom €4 miljuni mit-taxxi

euros-loads-of-money

Ħafna qabel Marzu 2013, Alternattiva Demokratika kienet favur il-finanzjament tal-Partiti Politiċi mill-istat. Dak iż-żmien anke l-Partit Laburista kien jinsisti li l-istat kellu jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi f’Malta.

Qabel Marzu 2013 kien biss il-Gvern immexxi mill-Partit Nazzjonalista li kien kontra li l-istat jiffinanzja l-partiti politiċi.

Wara Marzu 2013 il-Partit Nazzjonalista  u l-Partit Laburista bidlu l-fehmiet tagħhom.

Il-Partit Laburista m’għadux favur iżda sar kontra, filwaqt li l-Partit Nazzjonalista m’għadux kontra iżda sar favur.

Il-PN u l-PL draw jgħaddu ż-żmien bin-nies.

Alternattiva Demokratika biss, bħal dejjem, kienet konsistenti. Kienet favur il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat u ma bidlitx il-posizzjoni tagħha.

Il-PN u l-PL iżda jaqblu fuq ħaġa waħda. Sa mill-1994 mit-taxxi tagħna jieħdu €100,000 kull partit kull sena. Jiġifieri l-PN u l-PL diġa qed japplikaw il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat imma qed jillimitaw dan il-finanzjament lilhom infushom.

Bejniethom mill-1994 qasmu €4 miljuni.  Rari ħafna nisimgħu bihom dawn il-miljuni.

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!

budget fpp

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?

budget fpp

Beppe m’għandux idea x’inhu jgħid

budget fpp

 

Beppe Fenech Adami qed jgħid li l-Gvern għandu jikkonsidra li jkun hemm il-finanzjament tal-partiti politiċi mill-istat. Alternattiva Demokratika ilha is-snin tgħid hekk u l-partit ta’ Beppe fil-Gvern sas-sena l-oħra dejjem qal  le għal dak li qalet Alternattiva Demokratika.

Beppe m’għandux idea x’inhu jgħid. Għax l-istat Malti ilu jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi fil-Parlament sa mill-1994. Kull sena kemm il-Partit Nazzjonalista kif ukoll il-Partit Laburista ingħataw somma flus mill-budget, ivvutata fil-budget tal-Parlament.

Fil-budget għal din is-sena, bejniethom ħadu €200,000. Kif jidher fl-estratt ta’ hawn fuq.

Dan ifissser li għall-għoxrin sena mill-1994 sal-lum ħadu €4 miljuni tondi tondi. Żewġ miljuni kull wieħed. Waħedhom.

Jiġifieri meta Beppe Fenech Adami talab li l-istat Malti jiffinanzja lill-partiti politiċi konvenjentement nesa’ li l-partit tiegħu diġa ħa żewġ miljun euro, bil-partit ta’ Owen jieħu żewġ miljuni  oħra !

Owen Bonnici wieġeb lill-Beppe u qallu le. Mhux għalissa.

Dr Owen, allura dan ifisser li immedjatament ser twaqqaf il-€200,000 li qed jieħdu kull sena il-PN u l-PL?

 

 

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

euros 20-10

 

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