Use of Exchequer Funding for Electoral Purposes

Guidelines published by the Standards in Public Office Commission

Published November 2006

Introduction

The Standards Commission has issued the following guidelines concerning use for electoral purposes of Exchequer funding received under

(i) the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2001 (the Party Leaders Allowance Act), and

(ii) the Electoral Act 1997 as amended (the Electoral Acts).

These guidelines issued to those political parties who are qualified to receive funding under the above Acts.

(i) Funding received under the Party Leaders Allowance Act

Section 1(10)(1) of the Party Leaders Allowance Act provides that an allowance is paid to the parliamentary leader of a qualifying political party in relation to expenses arising from the parliamentary activities, including research, of the party. Section 1(10)(14) of the Party Leaders Allowance Act then provides details of the specific matters on which the Party Leaders Allowance may be spent.

In addition section 1(10)(5) of the Party Leaders Allowance Act provides that the Party Leaders Allowance may not be used "... for, or to recoup, election or poll expenses incurred for the purposes of any election or poll held under ..."

i) the Electoral Acts, 1923 to 1990, or the Electoral Acts 1992 to 1999,

ii) the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Acts 1947 to 1972, or

iii) the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Acts 1937 to 1973.

Funding received under the Party Leaders Allowance Act may only be used, therefore, for expenses arising from the parliamentary activities, including research of the party and may not be used for any form of election spending at either the forthcoming Dáil or Seanad general elections. This includes expenditure on goods, property or services which are used for electoral purposes before the commencement of the "election period" (i.e. the dissolution of Dáil Éireann).

Where it is evident from a Statement of Expenditure of the Party Leaders Allowance (which the parliamentary leader of a qualified political party is required to furnish to the Standards Commission under section 1(10)(11)(a) of the Party Leaders Allowance Act) that the Party Leaders Allowance has been used for electoral purposes, the Standards Commission will publish details of such use in a report to the Minister for Finance and will inform the Minister that, in its opinion, an inappropriate use of the funding has occurred. This report will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas and will also be published on the website of the Standards Commission. It will be a matter for the Minister for Finance to decide what action should be taken with regard to future payments of the Party Leaders Allowance to the party concerned.

(ii) Funding received under the Electoral Acts

Section 18(1) of the Electoral Acts provides that, subject to guidelines issued by the Standards Commission, Exchequer funding may be used for "... the general conduct and management of the party's affairs and the lawful pursuit by it of any of its objectives ...". Section 18(1) then provides details of the specific matters on which the funding may be spent.

Section 18(2) of the Electoral Acts provides that the funding may "not be applied to, or to recoup, election expenses incurred at an election within the meaning of ..."

i) the Electoral Acts 1992 to 1997

ii) the Seanad (Electoral) (University Members) Acts 1937 to 1973, or

iii) the Seanad Electoral (Panel Members) Acts 1947 to 1972.

The Standards Commission is empowered under section 4(6) of the Electoral Acts to provide guidelines and advice to persons to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Electoral Acts. A person must act in accordance with guidelines or advice given by the Standards Commission.

The Standards Commission is advising qualified political parties that Exchequer funding received under the Electoral Acts may not be used for any form of election spending at either the forthcoming Dáil or Seanad general elections. This includes expenditure on goods, property or services which are used for electoral purposes before the commencement of the "election period" (i.e. the dissolution of Dáil Éireann). The Standards Commission regards the letter which issued to qualified political parties as constituting guidelines issued within the meaning of section 4(6) of the Electoral Acts.

Where it is evident from a Statement of Expenditure of Exchequer Funding that funding received under the Electoral Acts has been used for electoral purposes, the Standards Commission will publish details of such use in a report to Chairman of Dáil Éireann and will inform the Chairman that, in its opinion, an inappropriate use of the funding has occurred. This report will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas and will also be published on the website of the Standards Commission. The Standards Commission will also inform the Minister for Finance that it considers the Exchequer Funding received to have been inappropriately used by the party concerned. It will be a matter for the Minister for Finance to decide what action should be taken with regard to future payments of Exchequer Funding under the Electoral Acts to the party concerned.