As the 2017 elections campaign period draws closer, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) is concerned about the unusual expenditure of political parties on fleets of new vehicles, motorcycles, party offices and dishing of large sums of money to support various projects across the country. This massive show of spending power despite the poor state of the Liberian economy coupled with a limited due-paying culture of supporters and partisans of political parties raises many questions. Are political parties and individuals complying with the National Elections Commission (NEC) Campaign Finance Regulations? Where are the sources of these monies? Are Liberians the sole contributors of these funds? Are foreign contributions or illegal contributions making their way into our elections? We have numerous reasons to be concerned because with the inflow of any illegal contributions, Liberia risks private interests capturing the state and public resources diverted away from the people.
The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which Liberia has ratified, recognizes that correct handling of political finance impacts a country’s ability to effectively maintain free and fair elections, effective governance, democratic government and regulation of corruption and has thus encouraged its members to “enhance transparency in the funding of candidatures for elected public office and, when applicable, the funding of political parties.”
The Constitution of the Republic of Liberia also recognizes this fact and requires the National Elections Commission to regulate the financial activities of political parties and candidates. Article 83 (d) mandates every political party and candidate to submit their financial reports to the National Elections Commission. Meanwhile, Section 9 (p) Chapter 2 of the 1986 Elections Law mandates NEC to examine and audit the financial transactions of political parties and candidates. However, the National Elections Commission has defaulted on its responsibility to fully enforce said provision of the constitution, including its campaign finance regulations, and has failed to publish campaign finance reports of political parties.
We are deeply worried about these developments and wish to draw public attention to campaign finance concerns.
Therefore, CENTAL implores the National Elections Commission to shake off its casualness in dealing with campaign finance issues and proactively monitor and provide information to the public on the sources of funding for political parties and candidates.
CENTAL also admonishes political parties and candidates to conform to relevant campaign finance regulations of the Elections Commission, especially those related to mobilization of resources and logistics for campaign and other electoral activities. We wish to make the following broad recommendations to NEC, political actors and other key stakeholders associated with the electoral process:
1. That the National Elections Commission commits resources to scrutinizing the finances of political parties and individuals so as to determine sources of funding for large numbers of vehicles, motorcycles and other equipment paraded by politicians, political parties and candidates.
2. That NEC understands that elections is not just about focusing on registration, civic education and voting, but also the many processes such as how parties and individuals mobilize and expend funds, which can impact the outcome of elections.
3. That the NEC publicizes financial reports and activities reports of parties and candidates since the 2011 elections so that the public understands the financial capacity and source of funding of parties and individuals. Disclosure of campaign finance records from past elections as required by regulations would allow citizens to analyze the funding trends for most political parties.
4. We are calling on the public, media, civil society and other key stakeholders to remain constructively engaged with various processes related to the elections, especially in terms of monitoring and reporting on the sources of funding for political parties and independent candidates.
5. That political parities and candidates proactively inform the public about their finances for increased transparency and accountability and commitment to good governance and integrity. If parties claim that their members and associates are paying dues, from which these vehicles and equipment are being purchased.
To conclude, CENTAL wishes to emphasize that it will constructively engage with this process; the law has to be followed. Liberians have suffered for too long and we should not allow politicians to circumvent our law and regulations and auction the country to private or foreign interests. The importance of these elections means that we should do everything within our power to ensure they are credible, transparent and fair.
Signed: CENTAL Management