Political parties in India may be averse to opening up their accounts to public scrutiny but their counterparts in as many as 40 countries including France, Italy, Germany and Japan are required by law to disclose their source of income, assets and liabilities among other records.
The revelation by an international NGO comes at a time when political parties in have India have steadfastly refused to come under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
“In countries like Sweden and Turkey political parties have a voluntary arrangement to open up their records to the people. Parties in some of these countries depend solely on state funding while in a majority of others their counterparts receive both public funding and private contributions,” the report by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) said.
The report said countries like Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, France, Ghana, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kenya and Kyrgystan have a system by law for political parties to pro-actively disclose their financial information to people.
Nepal, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Suriname, Sweden, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan also provide public disclosure on funding of political parties, it said.
“Countries like the US, UK, Belgium, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, among others, have adopted different models of disclosure of details of political party and election campaign financing.
“However, in India the regulatory bodies are not obliged to pro-actively disclose any financial information that political parties submit to them,” said Venkatesh Nayak, coordinator (access to information programme), CHRI.
He said political parties being in the public domain must be transparent about their functioning.
“The principle of transparency of political financing is increasingly gaining international recognition. Instead of bucking this trend by amending the RTI Act, political parties in India must act on civil society’s demand for greater transparency in their affairs.
“This change of mindset is more than likely to restore people’s confidence in the political establishment,” Nayak added.
According to the report, political parties in Fiji are liable to allow a person to inspect their records.
Under the political parties (registration, conduct, funding and disclosures) decree, 2013, any person on payment of a prescribed fee can to inspect and obtain copies of all records maintained by the offices of political parties.
The person can seek records such as party constitution, membership register, details of contributions received in cash and kind, estimates of expenditure, particulars of property owned and latest audited books of accounts, the report said.
Political parties in countries like Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Japan and Portugal provide access through parliament, ministries and other regulatory bodies to their sources of income, donations, assets and liabilities and expenditure, it said.
In Germany, the basic law (constitution) and the political parties act, 1967 require political parties to publicly account for the sources of their funding.
“Political parties receiving donations from natural and legal persons must submit a statement of accounts to the German Bundestag (parliament) every year,” it says.
In Japan, the political fund control Act, 1948 requires parties to submit statement of accounts to the ministry of general affairs and local elections management council (depending on whether elections are to parliament or local bodies).
These organisations permit free inspection of these records for any person. The information is also made public through the official gazette and the websites of these organisations, the report said.