Poll costs faked as spending goes through EC roof

  • To cloud expenditures past limit, candidates resort to fake reports
- PRITHVI MAN SHRESTHA, Kathmandu
Watchers express concerns that ballooning poll costs discourage people with moderate means from contesting election

Jan 1, 2018-Naya Shakti Nepal coordinator Baburam Bhattarai mentioned a slogan on his Twitter account on December 18 that read ‘Terha Karod Pakhama, Bhot Halyaun Aankhama’ (Rs130 million was wasted as we voted for eye). The eye was the election symbol of Bhattarai’s party.

Having secured his victory in the elections to the House of Representatives from Gorkha Constituency-2, Bhattarai’s tweet was clearly directed at the alleged expenditures made by his rival Narayan Kaji Shrestha of the CPN (Maoist Centre).

The Election Commission (EC) had set Rs2.5 million as the expenditure ceiling for a House of Representatives candidate while the spending limit for a provincial assembly candidate was Rs1.5 million in the first-past-the-post category.

Watchers have expressed concerns that ballooning poll costs have discouraged people with moderate means from contesting election, leaving the race often for those with illegally amassed property. 

Besides, stakeholders say candidates elected on the power of money will have to indulge in unfair means later to recover their prior investment.

Neither EC officials nor experts believe that most candidates spend within the limits. 

According to Binod Sijapati, the team leader of a research on campaign financing being conducted by the Election Observation Committee (EOC), a poll monitoring body, initial reports from observers showed that the HoR candidates had spent Rs25 million on an average.

“This figure needs further verification as we are still in the phase of collecting details from the candidates,” said Sijapati, claiming that there was hardly any candidate who did not spend over Rs15 million.

A study on campaign financing conducted by the EOC in the local level elections held earlier found that mayor and deputy mayor candidates had spent double the permitted amount on an average. Of the estimated total spending of 69.42 billion during the elections, the candidates’ portion is Rs50.95 billion.

As many as 148,362 candidates were in the race for mayor, deputy mayor, chair and deputy chair, ward chair and ward member positions during the local elections.

Despite the massive spending, the source of financing for the parties and candidates remains elusive, according to experts.

For transparency of campaign costs, the law on 

political parties requires 

the forces to get financial assistance over Rs25,000 only through the banking channel.

But former chief election commissioner Neel Kantha Upreti said hardly any 

party uses the banking system to receive large-scale donations.

As the source of most campaign cost remains elusive, parties and the candidates submit fake details of their expenditures to the EC to keep the limits.

“Parties and the candidates submit their spending details just for formality,” said Upreti. “It does not reflect the real expenditure.”

On Sunday, the EC instructed political parties and candidates to submit details of their campaign costs. The Act on House 

of Representatives Elections and the Act on Provincial Assembly Elections require such details to be submitted to the EC within 35 days after the final poll results are out.

The Act on Election Offence authorises the EC to slap fines of Rs15,000 on the party and their candidates failing to submit the details while ordering them again to submit the details.

Clause 26 (B) of the Election Commission Act says if the expenditure details are found to be unnatural while auditing, the concerned party or candidate is subjected to pay the actual expenditure amount or Rs500,000, whichever amounts more.

Clause 26 (C) permits the EC to bar those failing to pay such fines within six months from contesting any elections for a maximum of six years. 

EC Spokesperson Dinesh Ghimire, however, said these legal provisions alone are not enough to control excessive poll expenditures.

Published: 01-01-2018 07:51

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