PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos Islands -- Consultation regarding proposed new rules and regulations for governing the conduct of politicians and their parties in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), particularly during election campaigns, began on Tuesday with the publication of the draft Political Activities Ordinance.
Previously referred to as the Conducts Ordinance, the suggested legislation asks TCI civil society to consider how donor finance to political parties should work, what are the limits for campaign spending, what are parties’ accounting requirements, how might the filing of reports and penalties be better managed?
The specific legislation is specified explicitly in the New Ordinances Milestone and takes forward one of the recommendations of the 2009 Sir Robin Auld Commission of Inquiry. It also specifies the role of the Integrity Commission as the monitor of the conduct of parties for these measures, as well as describing the penalties for election finance offences.
An earlier draft of the legislation was given to the PDM, PNP, Advisory Council and Consultative Forum, Election Preparations Oversight Group in Spring 2012. Indeed, it was a point of specific discussion when the PDM and PNP met with UK parliamentarians from the Westminster Foundation for Democracy in March. This session produced a wide range of modifications which have now been included in the new draft.
The draft ordinance would apply to both political parties as well as independent candidates, although the reporting requirements and obligations on independents are lesser due to their likely lack of party machinery to support their campaigning. Comments as to how this might be best achieved are specifically being sought during the public consultation.
Views are also being sought on:
• Should there be a maximum amount an individual donor (person or business) can give a Turks and Caicos political party? The figure of $50,000 is suggested but is this too much or too little? Who should be allowed to fund TCI political parties and candidates?
• How much should a party be able to spend on campaigning? This is currently proposed as $50,000 for each constituency seat and $200,000 for each at large candidate. The draft legislation is seeking people’s views as to whether or not this is appropriate in a seat with less than 700 voters, which would average $71 spent per head, for example. By way of comparison in the UK a constituency of 70,000 electors (a modest size by UK standards) the total spend according to the formula allowed by law is £12,000 (approx. $18,000), equivalent to £0.17 (approx $0.25) per voter. The proposed maximum spending in the TCI is, therefore, 284 times higher per capita than in the UK.
“The Westminster Foundation for Democracy plans to return to TCI in late July to begin their work the local political parties on accounting for campaign financing and political financing, advice on policy-based campaigning and bilateral consultations for prospective independent candidates,” said Philip Rushbrook, Director of Strategy in the Governor’s Office. “The draft Political Activities Ordinance will be used as the basis of their training activities.
“Further, it is proposed that the Integrity Commission would set up an ‘election monitoring unit’ to receive the accounting returns required from parties and candidates, as well as to investigate omissions and complaints. Together, this unit would work in conjunction with the Elections Office.”
This new draft is being considered by the Consultative Forum, with the review period ending on Friday, 13 July. Thereafter, a finalised text will address the responses received and subsequently be taken forward to complete its passage into law before the end of the month.