KUALA LUMPUR: Proposed laws on political funding may see politicians given a freer hand in determining how much to spend for campaigns, including raising funds through online crowdfunding.
Putting a cap on political expenditure was unrealistic and unfair as it was a subjective matter which differed from each constituency to the next, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Senator Datuk Paul Low.
“For example, if you are a candidate in a rich urban area, you may need to spend only RM70,000, but if you are a candidate in Sarawak which covers a vast area, your transport costs alone will be more than RM70,000.
“So placing a cap on spending for party or candidate would be unfair and should be removed,” he said when announcing the National Consultative Committee on Political Financing’s report and 32-point recommendations at the Malaysian Institute of Integrity yesterday. The recommendations will be submitted to the Cabinet in two weeks’ time.
Although placing emphasis on transparency and accountability, Low said the committee recommended that politicians or their parties be allowed to collect donations through online crowdfunding.
“For example, donors may want to contribute from RM10 or RM100 and so forth but there must be a cap on the amount.
“This means that donors can remain anonymous as the amount donated is small,” he said, adding that crowd funding was a good popularity indicator for a particular politician or a party.
Low, who is the committee chairman, said it was also recommended that political donations, in cash or kind, above RM3,000 per annum or accumulative amount above RM3,000, must be declared and audited.
The committee also addressed the issue of foreign political donations. It is recommended that politicians and political parties be banned from accepting foreign donations.
“We do not want outside influence on local political institutions as a means to safeguard the nation’s sovereignty,” he said.
The committee suggested all donations be kept inside a designated bank account set up at the federal, state and divisional level.
“At present, we can see that donations can be mixed with personal accounts and not to the party, which makes it difficult to identify,” he said.
Low also said that money from “unknown sources” would be confiscated and used for activities to strengthen democracy in Malaysia.
To achieve this goals, he said the new laws also calls for the setting up of an Office of Controller of Political Donations and Expenditure, who is answerable to a Board of Governors comprising non-political and respected members of society.
Asked if the recommendations would be made into law before the coming general election, Low said it might not be as the process of drafting, tabling and passing the propose law required time.
“I can’t say it whether it will become law before the 14th General Election but I am certain it will be for the 15th General Election,” he said.