Dhaka parties asked to disclose fund sources


Dhaka : Introducing the first such measure aimed at ensuring transparency in politics in Bangladesh, the caretaker government has asked political parties keen to contest the parliamentary polls to disclose the sources of their funds.

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The disclosure has to be done at the time of newly-mandated registration with the Election Commission (EC).

The political parties have vehemently opposed the move, saying the time is too short. Some have even questioned the authority of the government that is caretaker in nature and has no popular mandate. Their opposition had thwarted the move in 2001, The Daily Star said Sunday.

This time the government has said the parties must submit to the EC details of their bank accounts and sources of funds at the time of applying for registration by Oct 15, according to the new registration rules announced Saturday.

Authorised by the registration rules promulgated Tuesday, the EC will check the authenticity of the documents submitted by the parties.

“Through the move, the EC, for the first time, is going to know the sources of political parties’ funds, which have remained hidden so far creating room for unhealthy practices in politics,” The Daily Star said Sunday.

The EC plans to open a series of dialogue with 16 political parties Sep 6 to discuss the matter of mandatory registration.

Inviting applications from political parties for registration, the EC is now considering a number of ways for scrutinising the submitted documents, EC sources said.

“We are giving serious thoughts to the ways and means for scrutinising the documents,” Election Commissioner Muhammed Sohul Hussain told The Daily Star Saturday.

The sources said the commission might ask the banks concerned to furnish it with political parties’ account statements.

The commission is also considering seeking assistance from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB) for checking the authenticity of the financial statements, the sources added.

To scrutinise large contributions and their sources, the EC might seek assistance from intelligence agencies, an EC source said.

The EC announced that political parties willing to get registered with it must apply by Oct 15 for the next parliamentary poll, meeting a number of criteria including the financial ones.

The parties, however, will be exempted from the requirement of submitting financial audit reports of the immediate past year, as they were not registered with the EC during the period.

But after getting registration, every political party must submit yearly audit reports to the EC by July 15 of each year, according to the new rules.

The new provisions in the Representation of People’s Order (RPO) allow political parties, also for the first time, to receive donations or grants officially.

According to the new electoral law, a registered political party is entitled to receive donations or grants from any person, company, and group of companies.

In defence of the EC’s efforts to ensure financial transparency in political parties, the commission said the existing system has allowed political parties to collect funds from any source, but that has led to graft charges.

Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) ATM Shamsul Huda in a news briefing Monday said: “Political parties have been facing difficulties in maintaining their accounts”.

“Transparency will be ensured once the system of registration of political parties is introduced,” the CEC added.

The military-backed government that called off parliamentary polls in January last year, has promised them for the third week of December this year.