IEC party funding rises??to a record ... R114m

2014-05-11 15:01

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SA taxpayers will have to cough up more next year as the commission’s bill to fund political parties is set to rise to R121.4m

No special allocations were made to political parties for this week’s general elections, but the funding paid by taxpayers to fund political parties?– much more than the millions spent on President Jacob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead?–?is set to increase next year.

The Represented Political Parties Fund (RPPF) received R114.8?million from the National Treasury in the year to March 2013, according to the fund’s yearly report.

This funded 14 political parties to cover costs for staff, travel, accommodation, meetings, rallies and other expenses related to furthering political and democratic objectives defined in the laws governing the RPPF.

Next year the bill would rise to R121.4?million, said Fiona Rowley-Withey, deputy chief electoral officer of corporate services of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). The commission administers the fund.

Although this will give parties a bigger pie, slices will be smaller to accommodate newcomers such as Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters and Zanele kaMagwaza-Msibi’s National Freedom Party.

Said Rowley-Withey: “The allocation for each party is determined by the number of seats that the party has in the national and provincial assemblies.

“It thus follows that if more parties are represented, more – in number – allocations are made, but the overall size of the total allocation is unaffected. Thus, the more represented parties, the smaller allocation each party will receive.”

The fund’s distribution to represented parties has grown 46% between 2005 and 2013, but its growth rate was lower than that of money paid by Parliament to political parties, which grew by a staggering 322%. It was used to cover interparliamentary membership fees and other allowances (see graph).

But political analyst Ralph Mathekga does not think that taxpayers are being squeezed too much.

He said: “It’s quite expensive to run a political party and the cost would even escalate during election campaigns. The?...?public funding of political parties is probably a significantly lower amount compared with what parties actually need to go about their business.

“Therefore, I do not think the taxpayers are paying too much.”

The fund’s 2013 yearly report showed that six of the 14 parties overspent their allocations.

The DA overspent by R2.7?million, while the ANC did so by almost R177?000.

“Compared with the amount that political parties receive from private donors, the public funding figure might be significantly low,” Mathekga said.

Definitive data on private political funding is not readily available. But last year, IEC vice-chairperson Terry Tselane estimated that it rose from R100?million in 1994 to more than R500?million in 2009.

Mzukisi Qobo, another political analyst, believes that government should support political parties in a fledgling democracy like South Africa.

He said: “If they are to be effective in their work?–?as well as hold the governing party to account?–?they need to rely more on public funding.

“Because of its transparency, public funding has a positive role in promoting democracy. Funding is a major issue for political parties and the lack of it encourages opaque private funding, which may not always be good for democracy and accountability.”

On the cost of the elections, Rowley-Withey said this was included in the IEC’s R1.5?billion budget for the current financial year. She added that the budget was more than adequate because the commission was a well-run ship.

“We also critically consider each major electoral event, as well as our ongoing operations, and consider how we can improve each year – either through cost savings or process improvements that deliver efficiency gains,” she said.

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