Malta’s political parties have not yet published their 2019 audited accounts under the pretence that they cannot be approved by their general conferences due to COVID-19 public gathering restrictions.
However, the Nationalist Party has now pledged to submit its accounts next week.
This is a separate issue from the fact that PL and PN’s media stations One TV and Net TV have not published their accounts for 10 and 17 years respectively.
The accounts of the political parties are usually given to the Electoral Commission and published on its website.
However, since COVID-19 hit, the parties requested an extension.
The Electoral Commission, which is made up of members appointed by the government and opposition, decided to grant this extension.
Parties now only have to submit their accounts three months from when the restriction of public gatherings is lifted by the Public Health Authorities.
“Political party accounts are normally approved during a general conference. Given the situation arising from the pandemic and the restrictions of gatherings imposed by the Public Health authorities, political parties were not in a position to hold such conferences,” Chief Electoral Commissioner Joe Camilleri told Lovin Malta.
Yet, the Labour Party held a general conference last July to replace several key positions, including deputy leader, while the Nationalist Party organised a leadership election in August.
When asked about this inconsistency, the PN told Lovin Malta: “The audited accounts took longer to be completed due to the COVID pandemic which significantly restricted the work of the auditors. The 2019 audited accounts have now been completed and will be submitted to the Electoral Commission next week.”
Meanwhile, the Labour Party insisted that the accounts must be approved by the General Annual Conference, even though it acknowledged that during the summer months “an Extraordinary session was held for the election of Deputy Leader Party Affairs and Administration roles and we only held one plenary session”.
“PL is being prudent in view of the pandemic. Even the annual conferences and elections of the local committees planned for this February and March have been postponed indefinitely. Just like in previous years, there is no problem for the PL to publish its 2019 accounts once presented and approved by the General Conference.”
Without such accounts, the Electoral Commission cannot audit the parties’ financial situation and whether there are any breaches of party financing laws.
The Electoral Commission told Lovin Malta that they never observed any breaches of the party financing law, though “there were instances where clarifications were requested”.
The Electoral Commission also confirmed that they have no access to or visibility of the accounts of the party media stations.
Malta is currently undergoing a test by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) of its ability to fight money laundering and financial crime following a negative evaluation by Moneyval.
Do you think pandemic regulations about public gatherings should stall political parties from submitting their accounts?