Political parties misuse Parliament funds

2017-10-29 00:00

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Parliament has deducted funds from half the political parties represented in the legislature, after they used their allowances for unauthorised expenses.

Six parties failed to either fully account for previous allowances or breached Parliament’s policy by spending irregularly. As a result, the national legislature withheld just over R1.1m which was meant to have been transferred to the parties in June.

City Press has seen a parliamentary document which details issues the institution raised with parties after they submitted their financial statements at the end of May.

The biggest offender was the Congress of the People (Cope), which failed to account for R34 925 spent on legal fees, according to the memorandum signed by acting secretary to Parliament, Baby Tyawa.

The majority ANC stands accused of spending R35 381 on fines and penalties, legal expenses and interest. Parliament deducted this money from the party’s June allowance.

Cope submitted its financial statements on July 27 and, on the same day, Parliament queried the spending on legal fees. It asked Cope to submit outstanding documents, including a signed declaration on effective and transparent internal controls as per the policy on parties’ allowances. The institution also wanted a summary of all party support staff employed as of April 1, a list of constituency offices and the names of MPs allocated to each office.

The party had not submitted this information, according to the document dated October 23. As a result, Parliament withheld allowances amounting to R1.09m from the party for June and for the second quarter of the year.

Cope chief whip Deidre Carter was adamant on Friday that they had done everything by the book, including submitting the required documents. Carter initially blamed this on the parliamentary funds saga, during which former party whip Mbhazima Shilowa was expelled from the organisation in February 2011.

Party leader Mosiuoa Lekota had accused him of wrongfully authorising the transfer of R5m from the parliamentary allowance accounts to the party’s accounts. Shilowa denied the charges.

“That’s something that was carried over from the Shilowa days,” Carter said.

She said Cope paid all its debt and submitted financial statements. For the first two years of this five-year parliamentary term, Cope was not getting funding from Parliament while it was paying off its debt, but things had been back on track over the past year.

She explained that the amount allegedly spent on legal fees was in fact a rental amount handed to attorneys when Cope closed some of its offices in 2014, but that the party had not been aware of the existence of the debt.

Carter said the party emailed the required document to Parliament. After the relevant official failed to receive it, they hand-delivered it to him two weeks ago.

Agang SA received a qualified audit for its constituency allowances’ financial statements because the party did not deduct or remit taxes of R6 247 to the SA Revenue Service for employees’ expenses.

The document reveals that the United Democratic Movement spent R6 700 on gifts and donations. The Inkatha Freedom Party spent R239 536 of its parliamentary allowance on elections and a further R63 905 on legal fees.

“The party provided reasons for both the legal fees and election expenses, which were acceptable,” the document reads.

The African Christian Democratic Party (R1 842) and African Independent Congress (R534) were penalised for interest on their overdrafts.

Parliament pays three types of allowances to parties represented in the institution: a party leadership allowance which they can use to appoint support staff in Parliament; and a party administrative allowance to enable them to effectively perform their functions in the legislature. This covers computer/software maintenance, communications (telephone) and office supplies and stationery.

The third category is the constituency allowance.

Read more on:    parliamant  |  politics

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