GRECO Urges Bulgaria to Do More to Boost Transparency of Party Funding

Bulgaria in EU | February 1, 2016, Monday // 16:32|  views

Bulgaria should make considerable efforts to implement the recommendations on transparency of party funding and further develop legislation to fight corruption among public officials, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe has said.

Laws on party financing are incomplete and sanctions are inefficient, GRECO said in an Addendum to the Second Compliance Report on Bulgaria released on Monday. The Second Compliance Report was adopted in the autumn of 2014.

As regards the financing of political parties, Bulgaria hasn’t made considerable progress, GRECO said.

Even though Bulgaria has fulfilled the recommendation to ban explicitly the free-of-charge use of any public administrative resources in relation to an election campaign and has set a fine for violation of that prohibition, the safeguards against the misuse of public resources for political activities only partly addressed the recommendation, GRECO noted.

In particular, the safeguards “were not broad enough to clearly apply outside the election campaign context."

"It would also be desirable to ensure that the prohibitions clearly cover the human resources usually associated with public facilities,” GRECO said.

A problem identified previously was the raising of the standards and quality of audit certification of financial statements in the context of party financing and the increasing of the independence of the external auditing of the accounts of political parties.

In the Second Compliance Report, GRECO has called for complementing the existing gamut of sanctions that can be imposed on persons responsible for the accounts and financing of political parties and to provide a greater number of penalties - proportionate and dissuasive. GRECO has recommended that the legislation should include penalties for accepting illegal donations, improper identification of donors as well as irregular or missing registration of parts of revenues and expenses.

Now, GRECO concludes that this recommendation has only been partly implemented and urges the Bulgarian authorities to do more to address the  high margin of accuracy and tolerance accepted by auditors in practice concerning financial statements of political parties.

More efforts are needed to adequately address “the improper identification of donors and the inadequate or non-registration of elements of income and expenditure” in political parties’ financial statements.

In GRECO’s view, the Political Parties Act would need at least to make explicit reference to relevant general provisions on sanctions contained in the Law on Accountancy, the Law on Measures against Money Laundering, the Law on Administrative offences and criminal sanctions for documentary offences, for the sake of legal security.

“Moreover, GRECO considered that the range of sanctions did not meet the requirements of the recommendation (“effective, proportionate, dissuasive”) and that the level of the fines remained globally low and inadequate to sanction significant financial violations and illegal dealings.”

GRECO previously recommended “to analyse and accordingly revise the automatic – and mandatorily total – exemption from punishment granted to perpetrators of active bribery in the public sector in cases of effective regret as per Article 306 of the Criminal Code)."

GRECO estimates as regrettable the fact that this recommendation remains not implemented.

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Tags: Bulgaria, GRECO, party financing, funding, corruption


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