By Elias Hazou
The new Political Parties Law (PPL), aimed at boosting transparency in party funding, is finally set to go the House plenum for a vote next month.
The government bill, into which the parties have inserted several amendments, purports to make anonymous donations to parties a thing of the past.
Individuals or legal entities may donate up to €50,000 a year. By March 31 of each year, the parties will hand over to the Commissioner of the Political Parties’ Register – a function administered by the permanent secretary of the interior ministry – a list of the persons who made donations of €500 and above.
The names of these donors must also be published online by the parties. Donations under €500 will not be published, but the parties will keep records and hand them over to the Commissioner of the Political Parties’ Register and to the Auditor-general.
Administrative fines are imposed for non-compliance.
“I anticipate that by October 15 we can arrive at…a legislation that first and foremost serves good governance, transparency and the public interest,” MP Nicos Nicolaides, chairman of the House ethics committee said on Tuesday after discussion of the bill.
Under the new law, parties will appoint independent qualified auditors from the private sector to check their books. The audits will subsequently be made available to the Auditor-general who, if identifying something that looks suspicious, can double-check the data.
According to Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, the new law will apply first for the financial year 2015.
Parties must submit audited accounts of affiliated organisations as well.
The bill also changes the way the state grant to parties is disbursed. The first 22 per cent of the annual grant will be distributed equally among the parties, the rest doled out according to the parties’ strength in the last legislative elections.
The law does not address the finances of MPs; it’s understood that a separate bill is being drafted for this.
A clause for the creation of an independent state official to monitor party financing has been deleted. In the draft law, the official would have been appointed for five years directly by, and answerable to the President of the Republic.
The establishment of this independent watchdog was a suggestion by GRECO, the Council of Europe anti-Corruption Group.
Political parties have long paid lip service to taking on board the recommendations of GRECO.
In the wake of media revelations that Cypriot political parties had received sizeable donations from Focus Maritime Corporation, a company owned by Greek shipowner Michalis Zolotas, politicians had pledged to reform party financing right after the European Parliament elections of 2014.