NIA banking on Paulwell's Campaign Finance Bill commitment

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

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THE National Integrity Action (NIA) is counting on a commitment from leader of Government business in the Parliament, Phillip Paulwell, that the long-awaited Campaign Finance Bill will be tabled by this month end.

The "renewed" promise comes against the background of several delays in getting the Bill before the legislature.

The NIA, in January of this year, had made public its disappointment with the fact that the Bill had not been moved forward by the present Administration, which took office in December 2011.

Last week Paulwell, in response to the NIA, said politicians were at fault.

"You will recall that, following the submission of the report on campaign financing to Parliament, it was decided that both political parties would address their concerns to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ). It is my understanding that different members of the same party submitted conflicting comments to the ECJ. Consequently, the ECJ wrote back to the parties to request that the concerns be clarified and streamlined. The ECJ is still awaiting the reviewed comments," Paulwell said.

Paulwell, in the meantime, said it is his "intention to have the Political Party Registration Bill tabled before the end of March 2013".

Last April, Parliament accepted the report of the ECJ paving the way for the introduction of legislation on political campaign financing on the basis that the points of disagreement raised by members at the time would be resolved. The report has recommendations falling under 10 headings ranging from the sources of contribution and donations, impermissible donors, limits on contributions to candidates and political parties, limits on election expenditure of candidates and of political parties to disclosure by candidates and political parties.

Speaking then, Paulwell -- who has responsibility for electoral matters -- urged the House to uphold the convention, which sees all recommendations of the ECJ being rubber-stamped. At that time, colleague member of Parliament (MP) Dr Peter Phillips emphasised that the contents of the report should be translated into legislation, going further than upholding the convention by accepting the recommendations of the ECJ. He, however, questioned some of the proposed provisions, including the suggested cap on donations to candidates per donor.

Despite accepting the report, several MPs raised issues with various aspects. South West St Catherine MP Everald Warmington, who led the charge, accused the ECJ of being high-handed in the manner in which it made its recommendations, saying some were 'orders'.

Parliament prorogues on March 28 to make way for the opening of the new parliamentary year, which will be marked by the tabling of the 2013/14 Estimates of Expenditure on April 4 following the Throne Speech by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.

The NIA was established in 2011 to enhance public probity on an
all-round basis and build public engagement as well as demand new legislation to strengthen transparency and accountability in governance, enforcement of the law against the corrupt, ensuring that anti-corruption agencies function effectively, and forging strong ties with national and international partners to achieve more meaningful results in building a corruption-free Jamaica.




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