Funds should be substantial enough to make a difference; to reduce the parties’ dependence on outside funds and make their financial activities transparent

In its efforts to make Nepal’s political parties more accountable and transparent the Election Commission (EC) has floated a draft bill with the provision of allocating budget for the political parties from the State to run their offices if they are able to garner at least 1.5 per cent of the valid votes cast during elections. The underlying idea is to make the political parties more responsible to the people, make their financial transactions transparent, and reduce political corruption and related evils arising from the rampant practice of raising funds from anywhere without accounting for them. When the political parties regularly benefit from the taxpayers’ money, it also becomes natural that they should be required to have their accounts audited regularly by the Office of the Auditor General, not just by some private auditor. Under the draft proposal, the political parties will receive funds from the state coffers based on the number of votes they garner. For this purpose, whether the votes should be from the First Past the Post phase of the elections or from the proportional elections or from a combination of both or also together with the winning of certain parliamentary seats will be decided after enough discussions with the experts, political parties and other stakeholders. So will other related matters.

The EC’s idea should be taken in a positive light as it seeks to clean up financial political dirt that has tainted every political party in various degrees. However, the idea is not new. Funding of political parties from the national exchequer is already in practice in a number of countries. In Nepal too, after the restoration of the multiparty system in 1990, knowledgeable people had started mooting the idea of government funding of political parties. The idea of election threshold put forward by EC is prevalent in most democracies. Indeed, they have to show some kind of popular support to be eligible for taxpayers’ money. Probably this kind of idea may be opposed by fringe political parties as they had done so at the time of making the constitution. The idea will be finalised only after the parties in Parliament reach an understanding. There should also be clear legal provisions regulating what kind of donations, from whom, in what amounts and when the political parties can raise. This should not be indiscriminate as of now.

Political parties which abide by the election law and the provisions that require them to include women, Dalits and other marginalized committees in the parties’ executive committees and also following the auditing rules can only receive the budget. Transparency and accountability should be among the main criteria for determining whether a political party is eligible for government largesse. State funding should not be made available only for helping meet the political parties’ administrative costs. Funding of the parties for helping meet their reasonable election expenditure should also be considered. But the amounts of such funds should be substantial enough to make a difference -- to reduce their dependence on outside funds, to make their financial activities transparent, and to reduce financial filth.

Right move

Many retired civil servants are enjoying dual benefits violating the existing law and regulations. This practice has not only added additional financial burden to the national coffers but also deprived new entrants of taking other responsibilities. Practice has it that once a civil servant gets retirement from the government office some of them with political connections are appointed at constitutional bodies, pubic limited companies and other short-term commissions. Such persons enjoy both the pension as well as the monthly salary. This is a dual benefit which is against the existing law related to general administration.

Minister for General Administration Rekha Sharma has vowed to implement her ministry’s decision to bar anyone from enjoying the dual benefits of taking pension and monthly salary. It has been found that nearly 60 retired civil servants have been enjoying both the benefits from the government coffers. The ministry has asked them to quit one of the benefits within one month, otherwise it will take necessary action. This is a right move as it will discourage those who run round in circles of power from getting another appointment after retirement.