In an effort to ensure financial transparency of political parties, the Election Commission has launched a web portal that will allow parties to file their financial accounts—contribution report, audited annual account and election expenditure statements—online.
The Commission has in a letter to political parties said the step has been taken with the twin objectives of overcoming difficulties in filing physical reports, and to ensure timely filing in a standardised format. The EC has launched a new web portal for the purpose, which will now allow parties to file their financial statements completely through the online mode. As per the Representation of People's Act, 1951 and the transparency guidelines issued by the Commission from time to time over the years, parties are required to submit to the EC their contribution report, audited annual account and election expenditure statement.
The online availability of the data, according to the EC, is expected to enhance the level of compliance and transparency. In the letter, the Commission pointed to the pivotal position of political parties, and stressed that it is incumbent on them to adhere to the principles of democratic functioning and transparency in electoral processes, particularly in financial disclosures.
The online portal also has a facility for sending reminders in the form of messages on the registered mobile number and registered emails of the authorised representatives of the political party so that the dates of compliance are not missed. A comprehensive guiding manual with graphical representations, and FAQs have also been sent to the parties explaining the online module and the process of filing reports online. The EC would also organise a hands-on training programme for the designated persons from various parties.
According to an EC official, what makes the step truly significant is that parties not wishing to file the financial report through the online mode will have to convey the reasons for not doing so and may continue to file their reports in physical form. The Commission will, in turn, publish all such reports online, along with a letter of justification sent by the party for not filing financial statements online.
The EC official said the step is in keeping with its ongoing efforts to clean up the financial murkiness prevalent among parties. From clean-up to crackdown by the income tax authorities to compliance, the Commission, the official said, has taken several measures in the last one year to strengthen compliance, transparency and accountability in political funding and expenditure.
The Commission feels that the latest initiative will make voters informed and aware of the financial affairs of parties.
The EC had in May undertook a drive for enforcing compliance of financial reporting in Registered Unrecognised Political Parties in May 2022. As part of the drive, the EC delisted 284 RUPPs and 253 other RUPPs were declared inactive. Also, the Income Tax Department launched an investigation into the affairs of certain RUPPs and conducted nationwide raids in September 2022.
According to the Commission, various instances have come to notice where a number of parties have either not filed one or more requisite financial statements as stated above or have filed delayed or inadequate or incomplete details, that too in a non-standardised manner.