Fund the IEC properly rather than political parties

The IEC is essential to free and fair elections and should have sufficient funds, OUTA told Parliament

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12/06/2023 09:58:21

.Image:  Flickr/GovtZA

Fund the IEC properly rather than political parties

The National Assembly has passed the Appropriation Bill without addressing the cuts to the Electoral Commission (IEC) budget, which OUTA is concerned may put the 2024 elections at risk.

OUTA had called on the Standing Committee on Appropriations to ensure that the IEC is fully funded as it faces the first national and provincial elections with independent candidates next year.

The IEC has to put up with budget cuts of about R770 million over three years while political parties received an extra handout of R300 million in March through the Represented Political Parties’ Fund (RPPF). The IEC raised the problem of these cuts with the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs on 22 May 2022 and 28 February 2023. Both the IEC and the RPPF are run through the Department of Home Affairs.

“The IEC is integral to ensuring free and fair elections, safeguarding the principles of security and safety within the electoral lifecycle, as well as promoting voter awareness and encouraging the public to register and vote. The IEC should get more funding allocations, not political parties,” said Rachel Fischer, OUTA’s Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager in a submission to the standing committee on the Appropriation Bill 2023 on 24 May.

“OUTA is not against providing support to political parties. However, the IEC should not be disadvantaged in the process,” said Fischer.

While the standing committee acknowledged inputs from civil society and others, it approved the Appropriation Bill unchanged (see here) and tabled its report in the National Assembly (see here). The National Assembly then passed the bill last week and sent it on to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence (see here). The committee failed to include any reference to OUTA’s submission in its report to Parliament.

In its submission, OUTA had pointed out that the government had managed to find extra funds for political parties despite the funding restraints, but couldn’t do the same for the IEC.

For the three years of 2019/20 to 2021/22, the Represented Political Parties’ Fund (RPPF) received R158 million to R167 million a year, for distribution to the parties already represented in Parliament and the provincial legislatures. The fund received an enormous increase for 2022/23 to R342 million and then, in a last-minute handout through an adjustment announced in February 2023 when Budget 2023 was tabled, the fund was granted another R300 million which took the 2022/23 funding to R642 million. The funding for 2023/24 is R350 million, followed by R366 million (2024/25) and R383 million (2025/26). These are huge increases.

OUTA previously reported that there are 11 funding streams for political parties from public funds: the RPPF (through Home Affairs), funding from Parliament’s own budget, and from the nine provincial legislatures. See our report published in October 2021 here. Budgets show that those 11 streams will provide parties with R1.625 billion in 2023/24 alone. This is significant funding, particularly when compared to the IEC’s allocation of R2.232 billion for 2023/24 and the refusal to address its budget cuts.

OUTA believes that some of the funding for parties – particularly from the provinces – is legally questionable. OUTA raised this in our 2021 report but this issue has not been addressed.

During OUTA’s presentation to the standing committee, one of the committee members said he shared OUTA’s concern over the public funding for parties and called for an investigation into this. He noted that the ANC was in financial difficulty, that election funding could be the only avenue for it to get more funding, and that citizens got “nothing” from excessive political party funding.

OUTA told the committee that the funding for the parties and other items raised questions over whose interests were being prioritised. For example, from 2021/22 to 2022/23, the President’s salary increased about 45% from R2.9 million a year to R4.2 million, and the Deputy President’s salary increased about 25% from R2.8 million to R3.5 million. In the Public Works and Infrastructure vote, the Prestige accommodation programme, listed as funding activities for the residence of parliamentarians, ministers, deputy ministers, the deputy president and the president”, records allocations of nearly R400 million over the seven years from 2019/20 to 2025/26. For about 500 people (400 MPs, 90 Delegates) this is an average of about R800 000 per person.


More information

A soundclip with comment by OUTA Parliamentary Engagement and Research Manager Rachel Fischer is here

OUTA’s submission on the Appropriations Bill is here.

The minutes of the meeting of the Standing Committee on Appropriations which heard the public submissions are here


Read more about OUTA's previous work on electoral reform here.

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