By Reason Razao
LEGAL watchdog Veritas has warned of possible manipulation of loopholes in the Political Parties (Finance) Act due to lack of transparency in income and expenditure which is not publicised.
Currently there is no provision under the Political Parties Finance Act or the Electoral Act for candidates or political parties to keep proper accounts of their expenditure during elections, or to disclose the sources of their funding.
In a statement, Veritas raised red flags over transparency and accountability on funding of political parties outside of money provided under the current law.
“Section 8 of the Political Parties (Finance) Act permits the Minister of Justice to make regulations providing for the form and manner in which political parties must keep records of donations, and the keeping of proper books of account by political parties, the audit of their accounts and the publication of their statements of accounts,” Veritas said.
According to the legal think tank, successive ministers have failed to make such regulations.
“So political parties have never had to declare publicly how much they have raised in funds, or from whom, or what the funds were used for.
“This silence on publicly declaring donations and revealing the donors can potentially increase the chances of state capture.
“If party donors remain unknown outsiders cannot assess whether or to what extent they are influencing the party’s policies and, in the case of donations to the ruling party, outsiders cannot assess whether persons who get public contracts are being rewarded for their donations.”
According to Veritas, other problems with funding of political parties include meagre state pay-outs among others.
“Lack of transparency is only one of the problems with our current system of funding political parties. Others are inadequacy of State funding and the allocation of State funding, particularly when a party that contested a general election subsequently splits into two or more factions, each claiming to be the original party.
The legal watchdog added: “The anomaly that candidates are restricted in what they may spend in elections, whereas political parties are not. All these problems need to be resolved if Zimbabwe is to become a true multi-party democracy.”