Full transparency in party financing, AD tells Minister Owen Bonnici
Alternattiva Demokratika-The Green Party is in agreement in principle with the White Paper on the Financing of Politics but considers that most of the details concerning the proposals should be reconsidered. This was stated by Prof. Arnold Cassola, Alternattiva Demokratika Chairperson, to Minister Owen Bonnici in a meeting held in Valletta today. Prof. Cassola added that Alternattiva Demokratika has been consistent in its 25 years existence by constantly advocating the regulation of the financing ofpolitics and political parties.
Carmel Cacopardo, Deputy Chairperson of Alternattiva Demokratika emphasised with the Minister that the Electoral Commission should not be identified as the regulatory authority on political parties and their finances. Alternattiva Demokratika is proposing that this role is carried out by the Commissioner for Standards in Public Life. The Electoral Commission is under the exclusive control of the political parties represented in Parliament in contrast to the Commissioner on Standards in Public Life who, appointed with the concurrence of two thirds of the Members of parliament, is not just a person of integrity but also a person who is acceptable to a very wide segment of the population.
Cacopardo added that the White Paper discusses the registration of political parties and enters into detail as to how they should be organised. Whilst Alternattiva Demokratika is in agreement with the proposed registration of the political parties, it believes that the White Paper enters into unnecessary detail in this respect. It would have been much better had it restricted itself to the essentials. There is agreement that the registration of parties should ensure that these are democratic both in respect of their political thought as well as structurally but there is no need for the eventual legislation to enter into the details of how the internal organisation of a political party functions.
There is a danger, added Cacopardo, that the difference in size and consequently the available resources of the parties is not factored in. Whilst Alternattiva Demokratika agrees with and accepts the proposal that the accounts of a political party should be audited, it is noted that the White Paper does not distinguish between the large parties which have an annual turnover measured in millions and Alternattiva Demokratika whose turnover does not exceed €15,000 per annum. In this respect, Alternattiva Demokratika is proposing that political parties whose turnover does not exceed €100,000 per annum shall have their audit fees shouldered by the regulator.
Prof. Arnold Cassola Chairperson stated that the White Paper core issues concern the donations to political parties and the manner in which these are regulated. Alternattiva Demokratika is of the opinion that the thresholds proposed by the White Paper are too high. It is the opinion of Alternattiva Demokratika that whilst donations less than €4,000 per annum should remain confidential, donations between €4,000 and €40,000 per annum should be made public and should be notified to the regulator. It should not be possible to donate more than €40,000 per annum.
Prof. Cassola added that the White paper does not include mention of loans made to political parties and in particular it ignores the possibility that a loan could be used to camouflage donations and hence avoid transparent procedures. Neither does the White Paper consider the required controls relative to the parties’ commercial activities nor does it examine how there could be introduced more effective controls on the use of public properties by political parties.