Sun | Sep 24, 2017

#JaVotes2016: No campaign financing regime for polls

Published:Tuesday | February 9, 2016 | 2:01 AMDaraine Luton
Paulwell: A lot of public education is going to be needed in relation to the various aspects of it and a lot of training for the staff of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

The much-hyped campaign-finance bill will not take effect for this election.

The bill, which is intended to amend the Representation of the People Act, has cleared both Houses of Parliament but has not been signed by Governor General Sir Patrick Allen.

"A lot of public education is going to be needed in relation to the various aspects of it and a lot of training for the staff of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ)," Phillip Paulwell, the minister with responsibility for electoral matters, told The Gleaner.

It was approved by the House of Representatives on December 1, last year.

Among other things, the bill caps the spending on campaign activities to $15 million per candidate. The current limit is $10 million. The limit for each political party has been placed at $630 million. No donor can contribute more than 10 per cent of the maximum allowable spending for a candidate and five per cent of the maximum spending for a political party.

 

Blocks shady donations

The campaign-finance bill also makes it illegal for political parties to receive donations from certain individuals and entities, among them being foreign governments or agencies and unregulated financial institutions. There are also requirements in the bill for candidates and political parties to disclose their sources of funding to the ECJ.

Paulwell rejected suggestions that the passage of the campaign-finance bill was a farce.

"We are going to see if we can get it in place for local government elections, but certainly for the next general election," Paulwell said.

"It is better to have it done now at the earliest possible time so that you can plan for other elections. There will be other elections. There are local government elections around the corner. If we have elections later this year, we certainly will utilise it. but we have to put in place the staffing and the training of the ECJ. It just would not be practicable now," Paulwell said.

 

Voluntary disclosure

William Mahfood, the president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ), told The Gleaner yesterday that his organisation has met with the ECJ and made arrangements for voluntary disclosure of campaign funding by its members.

"We have written to our members as well requesting that in the spirit of the legislation, what we would like to see as a future for campaign contributions to have complete transparency. We are asking our members to participate by way of voluntary disclosure," Mahfood told The Gleaner.

"Even though it is not yet in law, I hope we will see some substantial disclosures coming out of the PSOJ membership and its associations," Mahfood added.

Both political parties have indicated they will be nominating a full slate of 63 contenders for Parliament. Several third-party and independent candidates have also said they will be putting in nomination papers for the February 25 polls.

The nomination fee will be $3,000 and not the $15,000 proposed in the campaign-finance bill.

daraine.luton@gleanerjm.com