Sun | Aug 20, 2017

$144M and counting - Some private sector entities disclose election donations

Published:Sunday | March 20, 2016 | 3:00 AMRyon Jones
JLP supporters in a festive mood during the just concluded election campaign.
PNP supporters enjoying themselves during the recent campaign.
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Ten private-sector entities have disclosed that they contributed a combined total of more than $144 million to the two major parties in the lead-up to the just-concluded general election.

Weeks after Proven Management Limited told The Sunday Gleaner that it contributed US$50,000 (approximately J$6 million) to the People's National Party (PNP) and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has released its preliminary list of donors who gave a further $138 million to the two parties.

Chief Executive Officer of Proven Christopher Williams had said that 60 per cent of his company's contribution, approximately $3.6 million, was given to the PNP, while 40 per cent, approximately $2.4 million, was donated to the JLP.

Now figures provided by the PSOJ show the National Commercial Bank as the largest contributor to the parties with $33.5 million evenly shared between the JLP and the PNP.

Both the Sagicor Group and ICD Group Limited gave $10 million to each of the major parties for a combined sum of $40 million.

The Guardian Group Limited also disbursed funds evenly between the Portia Simpson Miller-led PNP and the Andrew Holness-led JLP, with $9 million going to both.

Continental Baking Company Limited served up $15 million, which was shared $7.5 million each to the two parties.

The GraceKennedy Group spent $12 million with both parties receiving $6 million.

Ten million dollars was shared equally between the two parties by Pan-Jamaica Investment Trust Limited.

Air conditioning and engineering company CAC 2000 Limited contributed $30,000 to the PNP.

The PSOJ figures include an unidentified company which gave $6.5 million to the PNP and $3.2 million to the JLP.

Chief Executive Officer of the PSOJ Dennis Chung told The Sunday Gleaner that the data now available has been sent to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ).

But with major corporate entities such as Digicel and the Wysnco Group, which had previously indicated that they had contributed to the parties, not on the list, Chung indicated that more information could be forwarded to the ECJ.

"We haven't received all the information as yet, but because of the timing we are just sending out what we have right now. We might have more information coming in," said Chung.

"I suspect that other people might send in information, and as soon as we get it we are going to be sending it off to the ECJ," added Chung.

The PSOJ executive director admitted that some entities which donated to the parties might not make their contributions public.

"Leading up to the election, the rhetoric coming from the political parties was not one that engendered an atmosphere for people to want to embrace the way we practise politics.

"If political parties can be talking to each other like that at a leadership level, the process drives away some persons. Our political leaders have a responsibility to ensure that they set a proper atmosphere," argued Chung.

"I think that there are some companies that just get turned off by the way that we practise our politics. Some of them have actually said that the way that we practise our politics does not encourage them to want to come out and say they are a part of the process.

"When you look at not only the leaders, but the activists, the people who follow political parties, and you look at some of the comments and the individual attacks that people make even on social media, what sort of environment are we creating?

"We have to create the environment and set that tone at the leadership level that is going to encourage people to want to participate, and participate openly," argued Chung.

The private-sector entities that have made public disclosures of their political contributions have done so voluntarily, as a landmark Campaign Finance Bill, which would have made the disclosure of some political contributions mandatory, was not signed off on before last month's general election.

The bill, which sought to amend the Representation of the People Act to regulate the financing of political parties and candidates, proposed that the ECJ should publish contributions of $1 million or more made to registered political parties or candidates.

The bill also proposed that political parties and candidates be required to furnish the ECJ with all instances of campaign contributions of $250,000 or more.

The ECJ would, however, only be required to publish, after the election, the total contributions received by each registered political party during the reporting period, and a list of all contributions of $1 million or more received by each party or candidate.

The bill defines the campaign period as the day on which the date for an election has been announced, or the last day of the Government's 54 months in office, and ending 24 hours before election day.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com