By Elias Hazou
SOCIALIST EDEK yesterday became just the second of six parliamentary parties to submit to the government their audited accounts for 2012, in line with a law governing transparency in party finances.
The party handed over its accounts to the permanent secretary of the interior ministry, who under the Political Parties Law (PPL) of 2012 forwards the information to the Auditor-general. The latter then checks the accounts for any discrepancies and/or violations of the law, compiles a report and sends it back to the permanent secretary of the interior ministry, who in turn publishes the findings in the government gazette.
On Wednesday, EDEK had held a news conference providing an outline of the accounts of the party and its affiliated organisations.
According to a brief memo disseminated to reporters, in 2012 EDEK set a target of raising €400,000 from party member contributions. The Mail learns that a little over €200,000 was actually raised.
The banking accounts held in (former) Laiki Bank and Bank of Cyprus, after the ‘haircut’ on deposits this year, currently amounts to €138,000.
The debit balance on December 31, 2012, was €794,770, coming to €637,698 on October 31, 2013.
The party said also that, in order to deal with cash-flow problems, the party payroll has been cut by about 20 per cent (as of January 1, 2013).
And over 80 per cent of the party’s capital was being moved through financial institutions, satisfying the relevant provision of the law.
But it was the Greens who beat everyone else to the punch, having handed over their accounts for 2012 some two months ago. Meanwhile DISY has just published on its website the party’s budget for 2014.
Under the PPL, as amended in December 2012, political parties must submit audited accounts within three months after the end of the calendar year in question.
But none of the parties met the March 2013 deadline for the 2012 accounts. The reason, according to Demetris Demetriou, head of the ministry’s Central Election Service, has to do with another provision in the 2012 PPL, which stipulated the establishment of a new register of parties.
Parties had been given six months (until June 2013) to register with this catalogue. By July of this year, the six parliamentary parties had registered. But because by that time (July) the parties were technically not considered parties, they were consequently also not obligated to submit their accounts by March 2013, explained Demetriou.
In a rather strange turn of events, the permanent secretary of the interior ministry next decided that, because of the failure to meet the March 2013 deadline for submitting accounts, the parties would be given a pass on submitting their 2012 accounts.
The government now expects parties to furnish their financial information for 2013 by March 2014.
Though the 2012 law was an improvement on previous legislation, it did not go far enough in the opinion of GRECO, the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group.
Transparency Now, a coalition of civil organizations, has been pushing for greater transparency in disclosure of party finances. One of their key demands is a ban on anonymous contributions to parties.
Transparency Now has launched a online petition for greater transparency. Eric Shukuroglou, a spokesman for the platform, told the Mail the petition is now just 200 short of their goal of 5,000 signatures, upon which parliament had promised to push for a review of the law.
In the meantime, however, the House Watchdog Committee has apparently passed the buck to the government, and as it now stands it is the interior ministry which is tasked with drafting a new (amending) bill.
The ministry’s Central Election Service has since received in writing Transparency Now’s recommendations. According to Demetriou, rather than a universal ban on anonymous contributions to parties, the ministry is gravitating towards mandating that only contributions over €1,000 be published.
At any rate, it’s not clear when the new legislation will be ready.