Electoral Commission clarifies issues around 2nd Quarter donations to political parties

Following the release of the Second Quarter Disclosure Report on political party funding, the Electoral Commission notes the general appreciation expressed at the report. This report was published pursuant to the requirements of the Political Parties Funding Act. The Commission again thanks the political parties that have complied with the law. 

It is apparent from the public discourse flowing from the report that a few matters require further elucidation, which we provide hereunder. 

The Commission’s mandate and role in the disclosure of funds donated to political parties is clearly defined in the Act. In the initial phase of the disclosure arrangements, the role of the Commission is to receive, record and publish declarations made on a quarterly basis. Section 9(1) of the Political Party Funding Act, 2018, read together with Regulation 7(1) of the Commission’s regulations, provides that donations received by political parties must be disclosed within 30 days of the close of the quarter.

Furthermore, the only donations prohibited by the Act are those made by state-owned enterprises, foreign governments and their entities, as well as other organs of state.

The second phase of the disclosure arrangement involves the submission by political parties of audited financial statements after the end of the financial year. An auditor is duty bound to express an opinion on whether the financial affairs of the party have been carried out in line with the provisions of the Act, including whether all donations were disclosed to the Commission.  

There is therefore a two-phase compliance arrangement pertaining to the disclosure of donations. At this stage the Commission is not empowered to probe non-disclosure or to force political parties to disclose. We urge South Africans to wait until the end of the financial year for a report from the Commission which will stipulate all disclosures made and deal with non-disclosures by political parties, noting that the Act provides both criminal and civil sanctions which may be meted out by courts.

In the intervening period, the onus rests on both political parties and entities making declarable donations within the stipulated limits per donor, to disclose such donations to the Commission on a quarterly basis. 

The Commission expresses its appreciation to the South African public for their interest in the matter and will continue to act, as it has and will always do, in accordance with the law.