Political party financing is unclear; TI will monitor the EU elections jointly with the public. Take photos of campaign billboards and monitor together with TI
Prague, 9th April – The results of the last year presidential and parliamentary campaign financing monitoring, done by Transparency International (TI) and the association Naši politici, are alarming. Four out of nine monitored parties did not have a transparent account during the parliamentary elections. It was often difficult to discover who the real donors and sponsors were even in the parties who did have transparent accounts. Moreover, at least 430 million CZK from party budgets passed through media advertising last year. Therefore TI will also monitor the upcoming election to the European Parliament with the help of a mobile and internet app ZmapujTo.cz (“Map it out”) which enables taking photos of electoral billboards. Now the public has the opportunity to get involved in the monitoring of electoral political campaigns. All the information is available at www.transparentnivolby.cz.
Evaluation of the Parliamentary Election Monitoring
A shift from the previous election seems to be the voluntary establishment of transparent accounts /TA/ which was done by 5 from 9 monitored parties. However, some income on these TAs came from the party accounts which are not publicly accessible so it was not possible to find out who the real donors and sponsors were. It was also discovered that TAs are not likely to record all the transactions. These deficiencies lead to questioning which other items at TA are lacking. “Transparent accounts are a tool with some limitations and experience from previous monitoring shows that establishing them for individual electoral campaigns is not sufficient from the point of view of transparency perspective if at the same time there is no transparent account for the general economic activities of political parties. It is necessary to realize that the requirement for the stricter regulation of the political parties is entirely legitimate – political parties and movements use the money (contributions) paid to the political parties and movements from the state budget,” says Petr Vymětal from the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Economics (VŠE) in Prague.
Monitoring of transactions on voluntarily established TA showed several weak spots:
- Only setting up a TA for the specific campaign is not a sufficient tool for transparency,
- Majority of incoming transactions on TAs remain in the shadows – many parties transferred resources from other, publicly inaccessible bank accounts,
- Some expenses of political parties and movements directly linked to the electoral campaign (deposit for the list of candidates) are not listed on TAs at all,
- Political parties manage some of the state resources and in 2013 they received more than 954 million CZK from the state (i.e. the taxpayers),
- It is difficult to find out the amount of granted discounts for advertising,
- Thorough review of annual financial reports of political parties and movements.
The whole text of the evaluation report from this monitoring is available for download at www.transparency.cz.
New Law on Political Party Financing
New law on party financing is one of the issues of the Reconstruction of the State initiative. The government pledged to discuss the proposal in September 2014. Now it is high time for the Ministry of the Interior to start working on it and use the recommendations from the Reconstruction of the State:
- Transparent accounts for bookkeeping;
- All financial transactions over 10,000 CZK only made by account transfer;
- Reporting all non-monetary gifts in the annual financial report indicating the value;
- Annual and financial reports in an electronic form online;
- Auditing of party firms according to the rules that affect political parties;
- A separate transparent account for revenues and spending associated with election campaigns and publication of a separate statement of campaign expenses;
- Mandatory labelling of all election advertising with the logo/name of the contracting authority;
- Rotation of auditors (3 years in a row at most);
- Control of the parties represented in the Chamber of Deputies by two independent auditors;
- Effective sanctions and personal responsibility for the party management.
TI will monitor the financing of the European Parliament electoral campaign. The information will be drawn from:
- Internet presentations of political parties/movements,
- Official profiles on social networks,
- Relevant statements in the media,
- Answers to an open letter which we will address to ten relevant political parties/movements several times during the campaign.
It will inquire about the transparent account, sponsors, cooperating agencies, granted discounts and other questions based on the best practice criteria, which are listed here The complete monitoring will be later available here. Tereza Zběžková from TI adds, “the candidates are motivated to get a seat associated with high salaries. That is why it is important to be vigilant during the campaign and keep an eye on its fairness.“
The expenses on media presentation constitute an expensive item in the political campaign budgets. Data on billboard campaigns, which constitute a fourth of all media expenses, are only available with one month delay. That is why TI encourages the public to monitor electoral billboards online with a mobile and internet app ZmapujTo – www.zmapujto.cz. The result will be a map of the Czech Republic with billboards of individual political parties and a table of used advertising areas – more you can see here. “We will also ask the biggest media agencies if they buy space in the media for electoral campaigns for political parties and what discounts they offer to them,” claims David Ondráčka, director of TI.
Partner of the Transparent Elections project is Otakar Motejl Fund. The Political Science students from the Faculty of International Relations at University of Economics (VŠE) in Prague also support this project by their voluntary work.