Transparency group wants election campaign finance legislation

The local chapter of Transparency International wants political party funding and election campaign financing legislation.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Transparency Institute (TTTI) called for best practice standards for political finance.

The TTTI’s statement came one day after a similar call was made by a high court judge in a legal dispute involving UNC supporter Krishna Lalla and former Fifa vice president Jack Warner over a “loan” which Warner claimed was financing for the United National Congress’ at the 2007 general election. Lalla insisted it was a loan. Warner was ordered by the court to repay the $1.5 million owed to Real Time Systems – the company from which Lalla sourced the funds.

In its statement, the TTTI said at the very least political parties should “disclose audited financial statements, itemising income and expenditure, with identification of specific donors; and be fined for not providing such documentation and once elected, individual politicians should submit regular interest and asset declarations.”

“ TTTI, an advocate for Political Party Funding and Election Campaign Financing legislation, has long been seeking full disclosure from the candidates and political parties in an effort to shed the light of transparency and accountability in our general elections.

“For too long this country has been plagued with the perception that all politicians and political parties are corrupt and that the only persons to benefit under their tenure/regime are their financiers, whose identities continue to be shrouded in mystery.”

The TTTI said it agreed with Justice Frank Seepersad’s statements in his “far reaching ruling” on Tuesday.

In his ruling, Seepersad said, “Money advanced to fund elections has for far too long played a central and dominant role in this Republic’s politics.

There is an entrenched public perception that elected officers can be sold to the highest bidder and that campaign contributions are the functional equivalent of bribes which ensure that favourable treatment is given by Government to those who provide the said funds.”

He said the evidence in the case demonstrated that “perception may well be the reality which unfolds.”

“ In the absence of regulations, financiers can legitimately purchase goodwill and exercise undue influence over politicians and political parties.

“The insular interests of these persons may consequently be considered as relevant and/or paramount considerations when executive decisions are undertaken. Such an approach to governance is untenable, unethical and inconsistent with the oath of public office which mandates that all decisions and actions should be made freely, fairly and in the best interest of the citizens of the Republic.

“The absence of campaign finance regulations has led to a culture of kickbacks and corruption.”