Monday, July 6, 2020

Botswana’s Political Party funding in need of complete overhaul

The top most priority would be to create a transparent, rules-based political party funding system that keeps serpents at bay while also ensuring that our politicians ÔÇô both in opposition and in power do not fall prey to blood thirsty moneymen bearing ill-gotten gifts that come with enormous conditions that ultimately undermine the integrity of the state and its institutions.

Regrettably, there does not seem to be any incentive for either side to come up with such a system.

What noise we hear about from both sides is for the state to fund political parties.

When it comes to transparency regarding funding from the private sector, both sides are deafeningly silent.

There is nothing wrong with political party funding by the state.

In fact under the scheme of things, that is the easiest thing to achieve.

More difficult however is for the parties to hold themselves accountable by coming up with a law that would make it mandatory to declare and publicly publish every donation beyond a certain threshold.

This by the way is what the public should be calling for and demanding in return for opening public finances to political parties.

It is only when the public goes for broke by playing for excessively high stakes will it not be shortchanged by politicians and political parties that pretend to stand for opposing causes when in fact they are united by some of the most embedded anti-public interest sentiment.

In any case, it would be irresponsible if we did not acknowledge that there is already in placve,  state funding of at least one political party already happening.

When the state president, his deputy and indeed other cabinet ministers go on their party duties, they use state resource under different guises and under the pretext of a schedule of benefits that come with their official duties.

State funding of political parties is by itself a good thing.

But its benefits are limited if not accompanied transparency regarding private donations.

In the 2014 General elections for example, it would be important to know who donated to each political party in campaign efforts.

That information would immediately be extrapolated to decipher what the motives for such donations were.

Political party donations are not often made as an altruistic cause.

People, businesses, countries and organisations make donations to political parties as a way of buying power, access, influence or leverage.

In other words they make donations and expect something ÔÇô often at great cost to the state, country or public ÔÇô in return.

Transparency should be the bedrock of whatever reforms are introduced in our political party funding regime.

Only when the system is transparent and demanding of closure will it keep at bay those with ulterior motives like capturing of state institutions.

Contrary to public perceptions, the ruling party is not awash with cash.

What the party often does is to take advantage of grey areas and especially the absence of disclosure requirements to attract benefactors through implicit or tacit promises for public procurement.

And given the unique structure of Botswana’s economy, where Government’s influence sprawls every economic sector, this is an infinitely portent way to attract funding.

Politically this is criminal.

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