Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu bowed to pressure of legislators by referring the Political Parties Bill to Legal Affairs Committee of parliament for further scrutiny before it becomes an Act.
If passed into a law, the 2016 Bill Number 40 will among other things outlaw handouts, deregister political parties that do not win in elections or hold conventions, impose fines on people that belong to more than one political party and also impose fines on political parties that do not declare donations.
Legislators asked Justice Minister to explain what a handout is so that members should refrain from committing the offences.
Nkhata Bay Central MP Ralph Mhone (People’s Party-PP), who is a lawyer by profession, said the Bill has so many legal pitfalls and need to be scrutinised by experts.
However, main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supported the Bill, saying it will bring sanity in the political arena.
“The Bill needs to be defined, hence my call for it to go to a relevant committee for scrutiny. It is because the Bill is silent on what handouts are, but banning the same is a welcome idea,” said MCP spokesperson on legal matters, Maxwell Thyolera.
Independent MP for Rumphi West, Jacqueline Kouwenhoven also supported the proposed ban on handouts.
“Out there politics is associated with money. I therefore, join my friends saying this is good but it should be referred to the relevant committee for further scrutiny,” she said.
Bill proposes that there be a Registrar of Political Parties whose responsibility will include regulating, monitoring and investigating political parties to ensure compliance with the Act.
According to the Bill the registrar—whose tenure will be three years—will also be responsible for ensuring the publication of audited annual accounts of political parties.
The Bill proposes that for a political party to be registered, it needs to consist of not less than 100 persons in each of the country’s districts who are eligible to vote and that the district commissioner should confirm their particulars and their eligibility to vote.
“The party can be de-registered if its registration was obtained by fraud or mistake,” reads the Bill.
The Bill further indicates that the registrar can deregister a political party that has not held a convention for a period of at least five consecutive years from the date of its registration or the date the party held its last convention.
The proposed law also calls for political parties to inform the registrar whenever there is a change involving amendment to a political party constitution or manifesto.
However, the Bill proposes that the Auditor General audits the financial records of any political party that receives State funds, saying that when Parliament dissolves, political parties should close the party’s books and records of account.
“Subject to the Public Audit Act and the Public Finance Management Act, the minister responsible for finance may issue written instructions for the better control and efficient management of funds provided to political parties under this Act,” reads the Bill.
The Bill also empowers the Secretary to the Treasury to surcharge the amount of any expenditure disallowed on the party and any sum which has not been duly brought into account on the party.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :