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EP election candidates did not file advertising expenses, auditor says

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Some candidates did not declare their advertising expenses in the run up to the 2019 European Parliament elections, while one received close to €29,000 worth of services for free, the Audit Office’s special report on the campaign spending of Cypriot candidates said on Tuesday.

None of the candidates exceeded their permitted budget, but Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides “identified several weaknesses and oversights to do with the incorrect or inconsistent completion of candidates’ expense reports,” as some provided a detailed breakdown of their expenses while others only included a final sum.

Out of the 72 candidates that submitted their campaign expense reports, only 18 declared advertising expenses. The report found that six did not, despite having spent a total of €4,504.

Four out of the six claimed that these expenses were made by third parties without their knowledge, which is illegal according to article 45 of the Law on the Election of the Members of the House of Representatives.

At the same time, some of the candidates made incorrect declarations for costs related to printing and advertising on web pages and social media, which do not fall under the category of “advertising costs”.

Disy’s Panayiotis Sentonas was found to have received €28,670 worth of advertising services from an advertising company for free, which were included in his expense report as proceeds, but not as expenses.

In a letter to the auditor general, Sentonas said he had attached the receipt for said services as evidence to indicate that they were also considered an expense.

There were also two candidates who declared expenses made after the election period.

The first was a candidate who submitted an invoice for €4,980 issued in July 2019, and the second an invoice for €957 which was also paid in July 2019.

As regards the businesses providing advertising services, 14 submitted statements, 12 did not, and three submitted late.

The report recommended that the government should draft a bill updating existing legislation to ensure its effective implementation.

This will entail expanding the category relevant to advertising expenses to include digital and social media campaigns and making the submission of evidence compulsory.

In addition, both the candidate and election representative will be required to provide their contact details.

It will also suggest requiring advertisers to submit detailed reports for the services they sold to each candidate, aside from general statements.

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