28 November 2012

Namibia: Political Funding Should Be Transparent

Rundu — Business people tend to lead the funding of political parties during elections, a move believed by many to be leverage to secure lucrative contracts from the state.

The Director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), Graham Hopwood, noted there is nothing wrong with businesses making donations to political parties, but it should all be declared publicly and follow set rules and guidelines on political finance, which Namibia unfortunately does not have.

"The current situation is open to abuse. Businesses or individuals can donate in the hope of receiving certain benefits such as public contracts. This is encouraging corruption," Hopwood told New Era on Tuesday.

Political party funding undermines the level playing field that should be there when companies are competing for government contracts and concessions, said Hopwood. He feels this practice if left unchallenged could lead to corruption, wastage of resources and service delivery failures.

Hopwood said there is a lack of transparency when it comes to the financing of political parties, adding that parties do not even account for the state funding they receive. He told New Era most donations may be honest, but there could also be some that are seeking benefits in the form of licences such as mining, oil and gas exploration and tenders.

"Due to the secrecy surrounding political financing and the lack of transparency around mining licensing, public procurement and programmes like TIPEEG, there is always the possibility for abuse to take place," he said.

Hopwood called for an Act of Parliament that requires political parties to publicly declare all donations above a certain amount, adding that parties should also account to the Electoral Commission of Namibia and the Auditor-General for their use of state funds on an annual basis.

"The Anti-Corruption Commission and the Prime Minister have called for legislation in this regard and the Law Reform and Development Commission has also suggested that a new Bill should be introduced," he said. Hopwood is also concerned about suggestions in parliament to approve funding for parties in the National Council without suggesting any new measures aimed at improving accountability.

Hopwood says is totally unacceptable for government to make policy decisions based on private interests rather than the public good, when businesses fund their election campaigns.

"It encourages business to seek favours from government through making donations to the ruling party. In addition, politicians can promise favours in return for donations. We should have a system that prevents or minimizes corruption risks," he said.

Hopwood says in order to level the playing field for political parties, state funding must be equitable by providing each party in parliament with the same amount that is then topped up by another amount based on the number of seats they have.

"This should only be done if parties submit annual accounts explaining how this money was used. Private sector funding could also be capped, so that a party would only be able to raise a certain amount from businesses. The rest could come from individual membership subscriptions and localized fundraising drives (such as braais) which are more likely to encourage effective party organization," said Hopwood.

According to an online study, "Money in Politics", corruption related to political party financing poses a grave threat to democratic development worldwide.

"Business interests and wealthy individuals engaged in politics are stifling democratic participation, undermining the development of economies and transforming the nature of government," states the study.

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