Election spend can be hidden -- corruption watchdog
Published 26/01/2010 | 05:00
A DAMNING new report finds corruption laws are outdated and fall short of international standards.
The Group of States Against Corruption in Europe (GRECO) says a number of criminal cases brought against corrupt public officials have been for revenue and tax-related offences, rather than bribery or corruption. And it warns that laws governing election spending are in danger of becoming no more than "a paper exercise".
GRECO's report said existing laws could allow political parties and election candidates to find ways to keep their finances secret.
The corruption watchdog warns the lack of proper scrutiny "is bound to breed public cynicism".
Despite the good job done by ethics watchdog, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), further steps need to be taken to make political funding more transparent.
Political parties should be forced to publish annual accounts, GRECO says.
And it said that unless laws relating to election spending are changed candidates and parties could exploit the system and never fully reveal the amounts splashed out.
Election spending limits only come into play when the election day is announced.
But GRECO said this loophole could allow candidates and parties to 'frontload' their outlay by spending vast amounts of money -- which will never be disclosed to the public -- before the election is called.
It said local authorities should no longer be left fully responsible for candidates' spending in local elections.
The Director of Public of Prosections (DPP) was also criticised for his failure to bring charges against election candidates.
In a number of cases examined, SIPO believes political funding laws have been broken. But the DPP interpreted the law differently and chose not to bring forward a prosecution.