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Money woes unsettles JLP

Published:Sunday | June 24, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Treasurer downplays cash bind

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is facing severe money woes to the point that even basic electricity and water bills have become major challenges.

But JLP treasurer, Chris Bovell, says the financial woes the party now faces are neither unusual nor unexpected following its showing in the last national elections.

"The party is facing financial hardships, but the Finance Committee continues to raise funds to deal with our operational commitments as well as address the local government overhang," Bovell told The Sunday Gleaner.

"It has been my experience as treasurer over many elections that there is always a deficit coming out of general elections, and this was compounded in 2007 and 2011 when we had local government elections within three months after the general elections," added Bovell

But a key inside source said the party had not anticipated this problem, even with the two elections, as it was generally believed that donors had contributed generously to the organisation.

The source said based on how much the party spent on both elections, approximately $800 million, questions have to be raised as to how much was actually collected for the elections, and where the money went.

Point man for the JLP's election fund-raising activities, Daryl Vaz, was guarded when asked about the state of the party's financing.

"It is well known that I don't discuss political financing publicly. I have had the unenviable task of raising funds in a dual role, being former deputy treasurer and candidate in 2007, and fund-raising chairman and candidate in 2011," said Vaz.

"I guess, based on the results in both elections, and the importance of financing, I was a hero in 2007 and maybe the villain in 2011-12," added Vaz.

Sunday Gleaner sources say that questions are being raised about significant sums in varying currencies that the party received. These monies, the sources claim, were in the US$millions.

According to the sources there is no indication that much of this money reached the party.

outside accounts

"What happened is that we operated accounts outside of the party accounts so that private-sector entities could make donations without drawing cheques directly to the JLP," a source told The Sunday Gleaner.

"That is common to both major political parties, but it appears that this time around, the persons who controlled the accounts used the money for their constituency and passed on only a fraction to the JLP," added the source.

"There is always a shroud of secrecy around political fund-raising as the matter is a sensitive one due to the level of confidentiality needed to protect donors from the perceived, or real, fear of political victimisation by the two political parties," Bovell told The Sunday Gleaner.

"This is further compounded by the fact that some members hold dual functions in the party, and, therefore, raise funds in different capacities without the need for candidates to report fund-raising activities to the treasury/finance committee."

Bovell argued that he is on record as supporting the legislation for the financing of political parties and is urging the Government to implement it soon.

"That will set the guidelines for the parties to reach the full stage of transparency and disclosure and put an end to all the speculation that has surrounded political party financing now and in the past."

While there has been no official comment from the leadership of the JLP on the amount, or the handling of donated funds, one senior party member on Thursday confirmed that the concerns exist and have caused disquiet internally.

According to the party member, who asked not to be named, it is a similar story regarding the alleged contributions to the party by the failed Ponzi scheme, Olint, which was operated by the now-jailed banker, David Smith.

"It is reported that we got US$5 million from Olint, and while we know that we did get some money in the lead-up to the 2007 elections, there is no trace, or anything else, to show that Olint, or David Smith, gave the party one cent," said the source.

Officially, the JLP has reported that while it is aware that contributions were received from Olint, it is still doing its checks to determine just how much was collected.

The JLP's Daryl Vaz and Sally Porteous have also admitted that they received donations from Olint.

That is different from the People's National Party, which has said its investigations have revealed that it received US$1 million from Olint, and not the US$2 million that is reported in the Confiscation Order from the Supreme Court in The Turks and Caicos Islands.

The Olint controversy has sparked renewed calls for the speedy implementation of a robust political campaign-financing law.