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Paulwell to get campaign finance bill today... Munroe 'tired of talk'

Published:Wednesday | March 11, 2015 | 2:33 PMEdmond Campbell

Minister with responsibility for electoral matters Phillip Paulwell says the long-awaited campaign finance bill should be handed to him tomorrow by the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) after which it will be taken to Cabinet within three weeks for approval.

He said after Cabinet approval, the bill will be tabled in Parliament.

On Tuesday, Professor Trevor Munroe, executive director of the National Integrity Action (NIA) argued that with no law currently in place to prohibit criminal and illegal organisations from giving money to Jamaica's political parties, the Government should move from talk to action in passing campaign finance law.

Paulwell told The Gleaner yesterday that delays in completing the draft campaign finance bill were due largely to the heavy workload of the CPC which had been working on pieces of legislation that are urgent requirements under the extended fund facility with the International Monetary Fund.

"We have been waiting for the draft to be completed. Sometimes, I wish I were the draughtsperson," Paulwell quipped.

Disclosure of contributions

However, Munroe is also concerned that there is no statute in place requiring the disclosure of contributions to political parties by large government contractors to mitigate the risk of contract awards or other illicit advantage in return for party funding.

He also said that there was no legislation in Jamaica that makes it mandatory for political parties to disclose who contributes big money to their campaigns, unlike 85 per cent of democracies around the world with such safeguards.

Addressing public servants and members of international organisations attending the Inaugural Fraud and Anti-Corruption Conference 2015, at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, the NIA executive director said that Paulwell had pledged to pass campaign finance laws in 2013.

Debating for far too long

"Free and fair elections can be affected by campaign financing ... because sometimes it is who pays the piper that calls the tune ... . We have been debating this matter for far too long," Paulwell is purported to have said in September 2013, during a debate in the House of Representatives, to approve the Electoral Commission of Jamaica's recommendations on campaign financing.

Munroe divulged that Paulwell had written to him in his capacity as executive director of the NIA, indicating that campaign finance reform would be promulgated by the end of the first half of 2013. "We are now in the first half of 2015, yet still no law," he said.

The NIA head, quoting from Hansard (the official records of Parliament), said Paulwell sought support on behalf of the Government to enable the drafting of the campaign finance bill "as quickly as possible so that we (could) get it long before any new campaign period commences". "Are we not near the commencement of a new campaign period?" Munroe asked, noting that Local Government Elections are due in 2015 and national elections constitutionally required in 2016.

"There continues to be an absence of legislation, despite many speeches and numerous words from governments, past and present," he said.