Bottomless pit: Political parties craft new ways of escaping scrutiny

A politician holding bundles of money during a fundraiser. [File, Standard]
Political parties have devised ways of escaping public accountability for the millions of public money allocated to them.

This is happening even as they push for the release of billions of shillings they claim Treasury owes them.

Their returns to registrar of political parties which are published in newspapers are crafted in so general terms that it is difficult to flesh out actual spending and make sense of it.

The filings give a rough idea of the bottomless pit the millions are disappearing to with almost zero assets worth writing home about. In its financial statement for the year that ended on June 30, ODM spent Sh19.9 million on campaigns, Sh712,000 for civic education and Sh10.5 million on conference and meetings.

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The party used Sh11.5 million on party policy and advocacy, Sh170 million on administrative issues plus Sh2.9 million on branch coordination and support. 

Jubilee spent Sh3,385,000 on operational consultancy and legal expenses in 2017/2018, while ODM paid Sh2,917,620 and Wiper had a Sh5,838,700 for legal services rendered to it.     

Former ODM Director of Political Affairs Wafula Buke said parties account themselves to independent auditors.

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“Party spending can be assessed based on its achievements. ODM has won several elections and the money allocated to it has achieved its objective well,” he said.

Former ODM Executive director Magerer Lagat said it is difficult for parties to budget since the Treasury releases funds piecemeal.

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“Party officials work pro-bono. It is only staff at the secretariat and coordinators in party branch offices that are paid salaries. The top party officials only get a minimal allowance especially when they attend serious meetings,” he added.

Former Machakos Senator Johnstone Muthama said the auditor has never raised any queries on how his party Wiper Democratic Movement spends its money, adding that most of it goes to payment of salaries and rent.

“We have not received our share from ODM as an affiliate of the coalition since the money was released to them. Money contributed to the party by well-wishers and party elected leaders is spent on rent and salaries,” he said.

Documents availed to the Auditor General for the financial year that ended on June 30, 2018 shows Wiper owed creditors Sh8.5 million.

The amount included rent arrears of Sh965,900, security (Sh203, 4500, ballot papers (Sh540,000) electricity (Sh12,000) and salaries (Sh513,750).

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Political parties’ registrar Ann Nderitu said parties are supposed to file their financial returns annually and state if they received assistance locally or abroad.

“Even if they don’t get any funds, they must file returns,” she said. Jubilee Party Secretary General Raphael Tuju while admitting parties lack proper structures for prudent use of public money still says they want more millions.

“This is a matter I am very careful about. The political parties don’t have inbuilt checks and balance. I am a bit hesitant to agitate for the billions following lack of capacity to ensure the money is properly used,” he stated.

Tuju said the over Sh173 million the party gets goes to general expenses to pay salaries and administrative work for party offices across the country.

He disclosed that Jubilee party is planning to establish party school just like Olive Tambo in South Africa, Julius Nyerere in Tanzania and CPP in China to help train staff.

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Yesterday, CMD executive director Franklin Mukwanja said most of the money is splurged on administration instead of other programmes that could grow parties.

“Qualitative use of the funds is wanting. Do you see political parties improving on policies? No. The money has no positive impact because we are not seeing them develop ideologies on issue based politics,” he said.

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