This week Corruption Watch made written submissions to the parliamentary ad hoc committee on the funding of political parties, on the draft Political Party Funding Bill of 2017.
We expressed concerns mainly around the continued lack of transparency in the private finding of parties. Transparency in party funding prevents and deters corruption and malfeasance, and steps taken to address transparency in party funding are necessary for the protection and promotion of multi-party democracy.
We believe that the committee now has the opportunity to ensure that issues of transparency and accountability are addressed in a meaningful and decisive manner.
We noted that the bill fails to address funding from investment vehicles owned by political parties as well as funding from companies that do business with the state. In this regard, we previously made a number of important suggestions based on OECD guidelines that either involved outright bans of certain funding or strict regulation and enforcement – however, our suggestions are not reflected in the draft bill.
Our previous submissions included the following points:
- Establishment of a multi-party democracy fund to receive and distribute private sources of funding;
- Disclosure of all sources of funding, including information about beneficial owners and a prohibition of anonymous donations (depending on formula for distribution, unknown sources could still have influence over the most representative party, alternatively the proceeds of crime could be channelled into the fund therefore measures should be put in place to prevent anonymity);
- Disclosure of expenditure / comprehensive reporting, this would allow the public to how political parties spend money allocated from the fund;
- Enabling scrutiny of timely, reliable, accessible and intelligible reports. In this regard, information about the sources of funding as well as the manner in which those funds are spent by political parties should be made available by the Commission in a timely manner but should also be reliable and importantly, accessible which means available on a number of communication platforms and available in a format which is easily understood;
- Capping of expenditure which takes into account all sources of funding and which involves capping the total amount that could be spent by political parties in any given funding cycle to promote a level playing field;
- A review of allocations in terms of the formula in order to promote a level playing field which would involve reviewing the formula for allocations from public fund in favour of more equitable distributions;
- A review of funding for local structures / smaller parties to promote multi-party democracy;
- Public sector integrity and transparency, codes of conduct, conflict of interest and asset disclosure provisions, risk mapping, whistle-blower protection and whistle blower mechanisms;
- Appropriate and enforceable sanctions and capacitated and independent oversight bodies;
- The consideration of increases to public funding only when private and other funding sources are fully transparent.