Tuesday February 07, 2023

Forum discusses flaws in political finance system

By Our Correspondent
September 28, 2022

LAHORE:Reform proposals on better implementation of existing legal provisions regulating role of money in politics and improving legal flaws in the system of political finance were discussed at the Consultative Forum organised on the subject of Political Finance by PILDAT in collaboration with the UNDP here on Tuesday.

Speakers at the Consultative Forum included PILDAT President Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, Chief Technical Advisor UNDP Ali Al-Bayati, DG Political Finance Masood Akhtar Sherwanee, Joint Director PILDAT Ms Aasiya Riaz moderated the discussion. Representatives of different politically parties who joined the forum included Punjab Finance Minister Mohsin Leghari (PTI), JUI Information Secretary Aslam Ghauri and Naib Ameer of JI Dr Farid Ahmed Piracha.

In his welcome remarks, Ali Al-Bayati said UNDP facilitates political actors and stakeholders to develop a common ground on policy reforms by providing a platform such as this consultative forum. He said that legal framework and implementation of political finance is very important and sensitive issue not just for Pakistan but also for every democracy.

Presenting the context behind subject of the forum, Ahmed Bilal Mehboob said ECP’s order of August 2 regarding 8-year long ‘Prohibited Funding’ case has generated debate and raised questions about the system of political finance in Pakistan. Similar cases are pending before the ECP about funding of the PMLN and the PPP also. He defined that all financial matters dealing with politics and political system come under the realm of Political Finance, such as political parties’ funding and spending, candidates’ funding and spending, candidates’ nomination form, political parties’ annual accounts, legislators’ annual assets and liabilities statements, political parties’ election accounts and candidates’ election accounts.

Legal framework of Political Finance is defined by Article 17 (3) of Constitution and Elections Act, 2017 Chapter VIII and Chapter XI. However, he said there have been limitations on effective enforcement of Public Finance system by the ECP such as on prescribed spending limits, lack of timely and sufficient scrutiny of submitted statements of accounts by candidates, legislators and political parties.

Other key lingering issues are having no spending limit on political parties, diluting of spending limit on candidates in Elections Act, 2017, Sec. 132(5) compared to ROPA Sec. 49(1), non-placement on ECP website of the statements of accounts, assets and liabilities.

Masood Akhtar Sherwanee said every new party has to be enlisted by the ECP based on the constitution. The ECP has enlisted 156 political parties based on this criteria and allotted 130 symbols. The ECP has scrutinised statements of assets and liabilities of all legislators from 2020-21 as well as political parties’ forms of same period. Scrutiny of 99 parties has begun based on their annual statements.

ECP has indigenously developed a software to digitally cover the entire spectrum of information on political finance. This would allow making historical and current data on political finance and make online reporting possible to the EC and also to integrate this with other data repositories in the country. Artificial intelligence would also be used to process, understand and scrutinise data on political finance. The ECP has also begun field monitoring of electoral expenses to feed into this data. Global Political Finance system rests on Disclosure, Enforcement and Sanction.

Masood added that there may be requirement for a uniform system of accounting software to be used by parties as the law is silent on a standardised form for accounts of parties and candidates. Consultative session was well attended by members from Academia, civil society and political field etc.