Party funding reform urgent - Phosa

2012-06-07 21:29
Urgent reform is needed in political party funding, including greater transparency and caps on certain donations, ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa says. (File, Sapa)

Urgent reform is needed in political party funding, including greater transparency and caps on certain donations, ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa says. (File, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Urgent reform is needed in political party funding, including greater transparency and caps on certain donations, ANC treasurer general Mathews Phosa said on Thursday.

"South Africa is moving into dangerous and challenging territory. The private funding of political parties is unregulated. Public funding is insufficient for the needs of our parties," he told a party fund-raising workshop in Johannesburg.

He suggested four areas which needed to be transformed: the control of private donations; increased public funding; expenditure limits; and the introduction of greater transparency.

Private donations should be capped and declared publicly, if the donor wishes to do so.

"Certain kinds of donation could be capped such as foreign donations, trade union donations, donations from state-owned enterprises, donations from parties that do business with the state," Phosa said in notes prepared for delivery.

Donations to political schools and policy research institutes could be encouraged through tax incentives. General donations to support democracy could be routed through the Represented Political Parties Fund.

Phosa suggested that funds raised through bodies such as the ANC's Progressive Business Forum should be declared.

"We believe this initiative would allow the ANC to receive significant support from donors and to do so in a transparent and honest way."

He called for public funding to be significantly increased and fair funding formulas to be considered to help strengthen small parties.

Both the public and parties should know who has made donations.

A new body could be set up to oversee donations or this could be administered by the Independent Electoral Commission, he said.

Introducing reforms would be more likely to be successful if all parties were involved.

"The ANC is particularly well-placed to lead such a process. At this stage we do not know if opposition parties will join us in this effort."

The role of party-owned or party-linked companies was a complex problem, Phosa said.

"Is it desirable/ideal to have party-owned companies? If yes, how does one handle conflicts of interest and consequent inefficiencies in handling public resources?"

He said the ANC should debate this honestly and also consider the public embarrassment this could cause, especially during election periods.

"Companies sympathetic to the ANC, however, should not be discouraged from making open, transparent and legal donations.

"Dedicated ANC cadres working in the business sector, moreover, should not be discouraged from contributing to the movement."

Phosa called for new "integrity mechanisms" to ensure that conflicts of interests were managed and that the ability of ANC members to do business with the state was not abused.

He warned that if reforms were not made now, the corrupting effects of money would get worse.

"Soon the problem will escape beyond the possibility of meaningful control. If this happens, we will regret our inaction today.

"Our democracy should not be available or sold to the highest bidder."

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