Cyprus Mail
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Paphos scandal underlines need for clarity over party finances

SIX PEOPLE were yesterday charged in connection with the Paphos Sewerage Board scandal. Five of them were members of political parties – two from Diko including the mayor, two from Akel and one from Disy – while allegations have also been made against Edek deputy Phidias Sarikas, who had served as Paphos mayor, and will also be investigated. In short members of the four main parties have been linked to the corrupt goings-on.

All six may be acquitted by the court, but the dark shadow cast over the political parties with regard to their dubious relations with big contractors and developers will remain. It is very difficult to believe that the alleged backhanders which contractors of three different companies claimed they had paid ended up only in the pockets of individuals. Some of the money will almost certainly have gone to party coffers, unless of course contractors made separate payments to the parties in the form of donations.

This is why it is so important for the legislation about party finances must have a provision making it compulsory for parties to publish a full list of the names of those giving funds as well as the amounts. The parties have been arguing against such a provision for years, on the grounds that they would not be able to raise funds if the identity of the donor was known; they argued that individuals and companies did not want their association with a specific party being public knowledge.

Their argument makes sense, but should they not ask why donors would not want their identity revealed? Some might not want to be linked with a party because it could be bad for business but there is also a more dubious reason for the demand for secrecy – cash donations could be with strings attached. A party could protect the interests of a donor on issues of legislation or could champion public projects from which a donor stands to gain. It would be much less likely to do so, if its links to donors are public knowledge.

Transparency is the only way to fight corruption, which is why the parties are so stridently opposed to it and have been doing everything they can to keep it out of the legislation governing party finances. Perhaps the government should send a bill about party funding to the legislature and leave the parties to explain why they were opposed to it. If the president is serious about fighting corruption he should force the parties to adopt transparent practices. We know this is easier said than done but we have to start somewhere if we really want to clean up politics.

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