Watchdog: Audits unreasonable for political parties with little cash

The State’s ethics watchdog has said it is “unreasonable” for small political parties to fully audit their accounts, after the first report on what organisations received and spent for 2015.

Watchdog: Audits unreasonable for political parties with little cash

The bigger parties, including Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, have outlined their different streams of income as well as how those monies, including donations and state grants, were spent.

The report released by the Standards in Public Office (Sipo) Commission is the first of its kind after new legislation and looked at the statement of accounts for parties, both large and small.

Up to 22 political parties were considered registered during 2015, the year analysed, but not all of them provided adequate information for the inspection of accounts. Eight parties were deemed “not compliant” including the Catholic Democrats, the Communist Party of Ireland, Direct Democracy Ireland, the Workers Party, as well as Independents 4 Change.

A number of parties, it was concluded, submitted accounts where there were “queries outstanding” including the Anti-Austerity Alliance and People before Profit while the Socialist Party was only deemed partly compliant with the Sipo request.

But Sipo has concluded that the process of having accounts sufficiently audited may be too onerous and “unreasonable” for smaller parties and as such has recommended that they, in future, be exempt.

“The commission is of the view that placing the same onerous obligations on parties with very little income and expenditure, and that are not in receipt of monies from the State, is unreasonable,” its report recommended.

This recommendation will be considered by the Department of Environment.

A separate 292-page document of the accounts for the political parties revealed the detail around spending, donations, assets, and expenditure as well as which parties received the most funding.

There was a by-election in Carlow-Kilkenny during the year and many parties said their funding, in part, went towards preparing this, other elections, and the same-sex marriage referendum.

Fine Gael in 2015 received a total income of €7.2m but spent some €7.6m, its accounts show. Its staff costs amounted to €2.5m and it employed 52 people.

The accounts show it spent €200,000 on website costs and new media expenditure. It also reported fundraising of €736,000 for the year.

Fianna Fáil reported that it had seen a fall in state funding of €2.3m or 45% in 2011 after its bruising election then.

Its debt at the end of 2015 was €1.5m. Its total income in 2015 was €5.1m but the party spent €5.2m. It also raised over €526,000 during the year, from its superdraw and collections among areas. The party employed 57 by the end of the year.

Labour, which was in government during 2015, outlined how its income amounted to €3.8m (€3.6m of which came from the state) while it spent €4.4m during 2015.

The party spent €1.6m on its 33 staff during the year, €212,000 of which went to “key management”.

Elsewhere, the report outlines accounts for Sinn Féin. It says the party took in €2.8m but spent €2.6m. This included €1.2m on staff, €1.2m on administration as well as €54,000 on its 1916 campaign. The party also holds assets in its offices in Dublin and Belfast amounting to €1.6m.

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