Financial promises – Lawyer: Impossible for aspiring political parties to explain funding

Lawyer Sevuloni Valenitabua. Picture: FILE

It would be an impossible exercise for aspiring political parties to explain how they would fund financial promises and projects made during campaigning.

Lawyer Sevuloni Valenitabua said this during the hearing of the Fiji Labour and Unity Fiji parties challenge to the amendment of the Electoral Act 2014 through the Financial Management Act (FMA) 2021.

The case is against the Speaker of Parliament, the Government and the Attorney-General and was called before Chief Justice Kamal Kumar yesterday.

The amendment requires political parties, politicians or their agents, who make financial commitments to show where funding would come from, how it would be spent, how it would be allocated in different sector and budget sector agencies, and if expenditure exceeded revenue, how the short fall would be met.

Mr Valenitabua said political parties at the election stage were still trying to get into Parliament, and their policies would outline what they would like to do if they made it, and where they would raise the funds to implement those policies and projects (financial commitments).

The chief justice said that was what the FMA was trying to curtail — politicians making financial commitments to get into Parliament — which they would later shelve.

He said under the FMA they would need to show some backing for their promises and could take that from the budgets announced in Parliament.

Mr Valenitabua said political parties and politicians were neither budget sector nor budget state agencies and that budgets announced in Parliament were for the sitting Government and their agenda. “All it does is constrain other political parties from free campaigning,” he said.

In response State Solicitor Gul Fatima said political parties and politicians can use the pre-election economic and fiscal update, released by the Economy Ministry – providing those explanations would help voters understand the proposed policies, the financial aspects of the policies and how they would be implemented.

She said the new laws were enacted to keep politicians accountable. Ruling in the matter is expected to be delivered on notice.

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