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Proven declares US$50,000 donation to PNP & JLP - Other private-sector entities to disclose donations later

Published:Sunday | February 21, 2016 | 2:00 AMRyon Jones
Proven CEO Christopher Williams

Officials of the two major political parties have confirmed that they have received millions of dollars in contributions from the local private sector, but Jamaicans will have to wait a bit longer to find out 'who has paid the piper'.

Efforts by The Sunday Gleaner to get several private-sector entities to disclose how much they have contributed to the political parties were largely unsuccessful as only one company was willing to disclose its spend.

Proven Management Limited told our news team that it has given the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) more than US$50,000 (approximately J$7 million).

Chief Executive Officer of Proven Christopher Williams said that 60 per cent of that amount was given to the PNP and 40 per cent to the JLP.

 

TRANSPARENCY

 

Williams expressed disappointment that other entities were not as forthcoming, as he said, that the best way to support the democratic process is to be transparent regarding how much money has been given.

"We contribute to both party and constituency because that is how they come at us. But we have to support the democratic process, and we wish them both all the best," said Williams.

"I think the basis on which we support the democratic process is through transparent contributions, and that's what we are doing, especially given the fact that we are a publicly listed company. It is important for us to demonstrate transparency at all times."

Proven founders include PNP bigwigs Mark Golding and Peter Bunting, but, upon becoming Cabinet ministers, they resigned as members of the management committee and gave up their seats on the board of subsidiary Proven Wealth. Both, however, remain shareholders.

Another entity that confirmed that it had contributed to the political parties was the Wisynco Group, but its CEO, Andrew Mahfood, refused to state the amount given on the basis that "it might prejudice the election".

"We won't disclose that information yet. The PSOJ (Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica), from what I understand, has offered to its membership that the information can be sent to it, which will, after the election, send it to the ECJ (Electoral Commission of Jamaica)," said Mahfood.

"And I think the reason for that is more so that we don't do a couple of different things that would prejudice the voters and our own team members," added Mahfood.

He said that with Wisynco's managing director, William Mahfood, also being the president of the PSOJ, the company supported the call for political contributions to be disclosed and intends to do so.

Sagicor's CEO, Richard Byles, said that his company would also be making its disclosure through the PSOJ.

"The idea that the PSOJ has is to gather it all together and to disclose as one," said Byles.

"Whenever they (PSOJ) ask us and tell us that they have collected from other people, I will do it then."

GraceKennedy Limited's CEO, Don Wehby, echoed the same sentiment that his company would be working through the PSOJ to make a full revelation, while stating that "the timing of the disclosure is now being finalised internally".

Telecommunications giant Digicel told The Sunday Gleaner that it maintained a strict policy of making political donations on an equal basis.

The disclosure of political donations was expected to be mandatory before the island next staged a general election, with the passage of a Campaign Finance Bill.

 

PUBLIC EDUCATION NEEDED

 

But this did not materialise as minister with responsibility for electoral matters, Phillip Paulwell, said that a great deal of public education was needed in relation to the various aspects of the bill as well as a lot of training for the staff of the ECJ.

The bill was to cap the spending on campaign activities to $15 million per candidate, while the limit for each political party was to be placed at $630 million. The bill was also to put a cap on donors contributing 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.

The bill will also make it illegal for political parties to receive donations from certain individuals and entities, among them foreign governments or agencies and unregulated financial institutions

But with the bill not having been signed into law, PSOJ president William Mahfood has asked members to voluntarily disclose their contributions.

"We have sent out letters to all of our membership following on the agreement with the Electoral Commission requesting that we would like as many of them as possible to disclose their information on their contributions to the Electoral Commission," said the PSOJ head.

"I think the feedback has been positive. What we have done is that we have given them the option either to send it through the PSOJ, or they can also send it directly to the Electoral Commission," added Mahfood.

He said that the PSOJ would be finalising with the ECJ how the mechanics of the disclosure would work.

"Some companies that I have spoken with indicated that they want to wait until after the election to make the disclosure because once it goes to the Electoral Commission, it becomes public information under the Freedom of Information Act, but they were still going to disclose it, so I got the sense that there were mixed feelings."

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com