Transparency International Georgia Publishes Political Party Finance Report
Tbilisi, Georgia – Transparency International Georgia published the Political Party Finance Report. This report reviews the issues concerning political party finance transparency and their accountability. The repot is divided into four chapters:
- annual state funding for political parties;
- election campaign finance;
- budget funding allocated to political parties for voter list verification during the 2010 local elections;
- recommendations for resolving the current problems in the party finance sphere.
Each of the first three chapters also contains recommendations and conclusions. The detailed study focuses on the political parties that cleared the threshold and obtained seats in the Tbilisi City Council in the 30 May 2010 elections, as well as the blocks that these parties were members of during the elections in 2008-2010. As the study has revealed, the legislation governing party finance in Georgia requires significant improvement. There is presently no agency responsible for controlling full compliance of party financing with the law; it is not clear who is responsible for the verification of annual party finance reports; there is no single template for annual party finance reporting; parties are not required to present original financial documents during reporting; there are no sanctions for parties that submit incomplete or inaccurate finance reports. Some parties only provide four or five categories of expenses in their annual reports. Some parties place most of their expenses in the “other expenses” field, which often accounts for 70 percent of the total expenses and sometimes exceeds GEL 1 million. Things like these make it considerably more difficult to analyze party expenses. It is often difficult and even impossible to identify the sources of the campaign funding that political parties receive. Parties transfer money from their party funds to their campaign funds. Since information about party funds only becomes public at the beginning of the following year, it is impossible to fully monitor campaign funds during the time of elections. For example, 96 percent (over GEL 13.5 million) of the total donations to the ruling party’s campaign fund for the 30 May 2010 local elections was transferred from the party’s own account. It was impossible to trace the origin of this money until February 2011. Georgian law establishes a GEL 100,000 cap on the donations that a single legal entity can make to the campaign fund of the same political party. Introducing a donation cap is a common practice in many countries and is aimed at ensuring that no business entity gains excessive influence on the country’s policies by donating a particularly large amount of money to a party. Despite the introduction of the GEL 100,000 cap, there have been cases of the same legal entity donating more than GEL 100,000 to party through its subsidiaries in Georgia. For example, in 2010, the companies Tegeta Truck and Bus, Tegeta Construction Equipment, Tegeta Logistic, Tegeta Motors and Tegeta Motors Kutaisi donated a total of more than GEL 500,000 to the United National Movement. Temur Kokhodze is the founder of three of these companies and is also among the founders of the other two. There have also been cases when the total amount transferred by an enterprise to a party’s fund and the same party’s campaign fund exceeded GEL 100,000. For example, in 2008, JSC Transmsheni donated GEL 100,000 to the campaign fund of United National Movement presidential candidate Mikheil Saakashvili and another GEL 75,000 to the United National Movement. Another interesting trend is that the ruling party’s campaign financing has been from seven times (during the 2010 local elections) to 26 times (during the 2008 presidential elections) larger than the total funding of all other election contestants. With a few exceptions, opposition parties have only received donations from physical persons, while businesses have only been providing funding for the campaign of the ruling party and its candidates. This was the case during the 5 January 2008 presidential election and all the subsequent elections. As for the inclusion of political parties in the verification of voter lists before the 2010 elections, the initiative proved ineffective because of time shortage, inadequate planning, weak coordination and other problems. In order to improve the voter list, it is necessary to ensure that it is continuously accessible to parties and other interested organizations and individuals, so that they can verify the list at any time and request changes if needed. It is also important to improve coordination between the government agencies responsible for compiling the list.