There is “limited” transparency in the Cayman Islands when it comes to revealing who paid for a politician’s campaign and how much they paid, according to a group of international elections observers.
Although Cayman got high marks for the conduct of its May 24 elections, campaign finance reporting and policing received decidedly lower scores from the six-person Commonwealth elections observer team that visited last week.
“The transparency of campaign finances was limited as there are no requirements for contestants to submit, or for the authorities to audit or publish, reports on expenditure before [election] day,” the preliminary report of the elections observers states.
Under the Elections Law, all candidates must file a report of their campaign-related expenses between Nomination Day – in this case March 29 – and Election Day. The candidates are only allowed to spend up to $40,000 in that period.
The reports of those expenses, however, do not have to be delivered to the supervisor of elections until 35 days after Election Day, when they are made available to the public.
Also, money spent by the candidates before Nomination Day in any election cycle does not need to be reported. Commonwealth observers’ head of mission, Steve Rodan, said the group had received some complaints from residents that this allowed political parties to “pay in advance” for campaign-related expenses or services they received between Nomination Day and Election Day.
Also, contributions made to the political parties are not regulated at all under the Elections Law.
“In the absence of public funding for either parties or candidates, some Commonwealth … interlocutors expressed concern that the amount of funding from private Caymanians was too high and distorted the fairness of the campaign,” the observers’ report read.
While candidates are required to send the supervisor of elections a report on their expenses between Nomination Day and Election Day, as well as funds received during that period, the supervisor has no idea whether those reports reflect the true figures.
“There is … no obligation on any state institution to actually verify the completeness and accuracy of the expenses and contributions declared,” the observers reported.
The observers noted that while the Commission for Standards in Public Life maintains a register of interests for candidates’ business interests, assets, income and debts, more stringent reporting requirements created under local legislation in 2014 have not been enforced.
“The legislation has not commenced to date,” the observers noted.