The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has repeated its concerns about some of the rules setting out how political parties account for the spending of money provided by the Exchequer.
It has also criticised Renua, saying that the party had failed – for the second year in a row – to submit its returns by the deadline set out under legislation.
The commission today (24 September) published a report on how parties spent €5.8 million in funding provided by the taxpayer last year under the Electoral Act 1997.
The amounts are based on parties’ percentage of the vote in the last Dáil election, and funding for qualified parties can be blocked if they fail to comply with deadlines.
As Renua fell below the threshold in the February 2020 general election, it no longer qualified for payments after that date. As a result, the commission says, “no further action can be taken against Renua for failure to comply with its obligations, or for late compliance”.
The commission described this situation as “unacceptable”, and called for sanctions to be provided for under the legislation.
In 2020, seven political parties qualified for the funding: Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, the Green Party, the Labour Party, Sinn Féin, Social Democrats, and Solidarity/People Before Profit. Renua received funding only for the period from 1 January to 7 February.
The money cannot be used for electoral or referendum purposes, and parties must report to the commission on how they spent the funds.
The commission said, however, that the legislation was “very general” on how funding should be used, and called for greater clarity on the issue.
Its report shows that parties spent just under €4.8 million last year, with any unused funding from the previous carried over for use the following year.
A separate SIPO report shows that, last year, political parties and independent members of the Oireachtas spent almost €7.3 million of the €8.5 million provided under the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014.
A political party qualifies for this payment – known as the parliamentary activities allowance – if it has registered in the Register of Political Parties, and has had at least one member elected to Dáil Éireann, or elected or nominated to the Seanad, at the last general election.
Parliamentary party leaders received just under €7.6 million, with independent members of the Oireachtas accounting for the remainder.