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Main parties agree to funding transparency measures

Northern League and centre-left recently hit by scandals

12 April, 10:55
Main parties agree to funding transparency measures (ANSA) - Rome, April 12 - The three main political groups supporting Premier Mario Monti's emergency government have reached an agreement for measures to create greater transparency in party funding.

Party funding is a hot issue at the moment after the Northern League and Italy's centre-left were hit recently by scandal.

Umberto Bossi resigned as the leader of the populist League last week when his family was linked to probes into the alleged fraudulent use of party money.

Luigi Lusi, a Senator for the centre-left Democratic Party (PD), is under investigation for alleged fraud. He is suspected of embezzling millions of euros out of the coffers of La Margherita, a party that merged with the reformed rump of Italy's old Communist party in 2007 to form the PD, when he was its treasurer.

The three big groups, former Premier Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom (PdL), the PD and a coalition of centrist parties called the Third Pole, have agreed to set up a special committee made up of top judges to monitor party finances.

The parties' balance sheets will be checked by auditors recognised by Italy's stock-market watchdog Consob and published on Internet, if the reforms are approved in parliament. Under the terms of the agreement, the speakers of the House and the Senate will be able to fine parties by three times the amount in question if irregularities are uncovered. The moves were criticised in some quarters for not going far enough, with critics saying the amount of money parties receive should be cut too. On Wednesday the Council of Europe blasted Italy's political party funding system in a report, saying greater transparency was urgently needed.

"The control performed by public authorities over political funding is fragmented and formalistic, consisting of three different institutions with limited powers and no co-ordination either among themselves or with law enforcement bodies," read the report by the Council of Europe's Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

The report called on parties to develop their own internal control systems and to subject their accounts to independent audit. It also recommended lowering the 50,000-euro threshold under which the identity of party donors is unknown to the public and banning anonymous donations. The report said GRECO was "particularly concerned about the effectiveness of the sanctioning regime for corruption offences in Italy and the high risk of prosecuted cases being dismissed as time barred (by the statute of limitations)". Corruption related to party fuding was a big element in the Tangentopoli investigations in the early 1990s which brought down the political establishment that had ruled Italy since World War II, causing the demise of the once-dominant Christian Democracy party. photo: from left, PdL leader Angelino Alfano, PD chief Pier Luigi Bersani and Pier Ferdinando Casini, the head of the centrist UDC.