NAO finds that political parties fail to justify €200,000 in public funding

Tista' taqra bil- Malti.

Malta’s two main political parties are failing to confirm whether the €200,000 in public funds they receive each year are still being used for their stated purpose – the appointment of representatives in Brussels.

The matter was flagged by the Auditor General in his latest annual report, which was published earlier this month.

Back in 1994, as Malta was preparing for EU membership, the government had agreed to provide public funds to both the government and opposition groups in Parliament to enable them to appoint representatives in Brussels to handle EU affairs and offered compensation for the salary of an officer to work in their respective international offices on EU matters in Malta. The latest agreement the National Audit Office could find on the issue dates back 20 years and contains a clause specifying that such compensation was to continue as long as parties’ agreements with their officers and consultants remained in force.

Presently, both the Nationalist and Labour parties receive €100,000 each every year, an allocation that has remained the same for a number of years, including in the 2020 Budget. Political parties are not directly allocated to any other public funds.

Both political parties are bound to furnish “the necessary documentation and/or data to substantiate that the money refunded… are being utilised according to the terms of this agreement,” but both have failed to meet their obligations. The matter had been raised by Speaker Anġlu Farrugia during a House Business Committee meeting in November 2017, but even so, the parties continued to fail to prove that the public funds allocated to them were being properly used.

The Auditor-General not only questioned whether the funds were being used properly – but he also questioned whether the funding was still necessary, not least following Malta’s accession to the EU 15 years ago, and urged the House of Representatives to determine whether parties should still be entitled to it.

While ostensibly, Maltese political parties are not subsidised through public funds – though whether they should be is a matter for debate – there is little to indicate, at present, that this allocation is anything but a general subsidy.