By Elias Hazou
The House ethics committee was nowhere near consensus on Tuesday on party funding, still seeking the sweet spot as to whether donations to parties ought to be disclosed and when.
As it stands, the government bill under discussion stipulates that parties must publish the identity of all persons or legal entities donating €500 or more. For donations under €500, the parties are not obligated to make them public, but will be required to maintain records and disclose these to the Auditor-general.
The second part of the stipulation aims to prevent abuse, such as persons or corporations who would make multiple donations of just under €500 so their donations are kept totally off the books.
Main opposition AKEL disagreed, arguing that people making petty donations should have their right to privacy protected and not have their names published, with everyone later knowing where their political affiliations lie.
“I cannot comprehend how it is possible for a long-standing tradition, which may relate to donations of €5, €10, €20 or of a few hundred euro – not several thousand or millions – to be governed by the same regulations that apply to large donations,” AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said.
The communist party also had a problem with the Auditor-general poking through their finances.
By law, the Auditor-general may audit only public-law organisations.
EDEK has tabled a legislative proposal by which anonymous donations are prohibited entirely, whereas the European Party (EVROKO) proposes a cap on total donations.
Lawmakers are also considering re-jigging the state grant to parties. Currently, 22 per cent of the grant is disbursed equitably among the parties, with the remaining 78 per cent shared out according to the parties’ respective strength as recorded in the last legislative elections.
Under the new proposal, the whole amount would be distributed according to party strength – an idea which DISY, the largest party, understandably embraces.
Politicians have for years paid lip service to party finance reform.
In the wake of media revelations that parties had received sizeable donations from Focus Maritime Corporation, a company owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas, MPs had pledged to reform party financing right after the European Parliament elections of 2014.
Now, the ethics committee plans to table the legislation to the House plenum before the summer recess.
In a report last month, the European Council’s Group of States against Corruption committee – also known as GRECO – found wanting the level of transparency on political party-funding in Cyprus.