Beef up information bill

The proposed Freedom of Information Bill for a law is good in principle and we commend Government for bringing it.

However it does not cover one of the most important areas of information, namely the names, dates, and amounts of donations in money or kind to political parties and the party’s financial accounts.

The present law (Elections Law and Register of Interests) on disclosure by legislature members and election candidates does not go far enough on parties. Political parties may get donations of money, which sometimes are substantial amounts of money throughout the year not just at election time when normally independent candidates get donations.

Some people who give money to political parties, MLA’s or elected candidates may expect something in return.

Speaking generally and as seen in some other countries, government contracts may go to party donors who may or may not be a party member, or for a higher contract price than other lower bids for the same work.

Some parties abroad will only give board chairmanships to party members. Many allegations could be avoided if the above information is available. Some countries only allow donations from permissible donors under their law.

The Legislature and United Democratic Party Government in the Public Management and Finance Law (Amendment) 2002 repealed and removed section 60 (2) of the 2001 law, which said ‘As soon as a report to…… [the Legislative Assembly by the Auditor General]…… is delivered to the clerk of the Legislative Assembly for presentation to the Legislative Assembly it shall be a public document and the Auditor General shall provide a copy to any person requesting one on payment of a …… fee.’

In effect the Auditor General’s report on wrong doings of a government could be kept secret from the public by that government. Do you think a government is going to be anxious to voluntarily and quickly publish a bad report on itself? Surely the Auditor General’s report is one of the most important checks and balances on a government but it has deliberately been made secret.

The Peoples Progressive Movement and the United Democratic Party keep talking about transparency. The Peoples Progressive Movement won the elections promising freedom of information.

The real test for freedom of information and transparency is for the names, dates, and amounts of donations to political parties, elected candidates and legislature members together with the party’s accounts to be public information under a law and the Auditor General’s report to be public.

Lets see if the transparent and freedom of information political parties will put their money information where their mouth is.

Truman Bodden

John McLean