Auditor finds 47 irregularities in 2019 European campaign accounts

  • Lusa
  • 2 March 2021

ECFP identified around 47 irregularities in the accounts of the 14 parties and two coalitions that took part in the 2019 elections for the European Parliament in Portugal.

The payment of a campaign expense by a supporter, which is prohibited, for the right-wing coalition Basta! (Enough), and a ticket for a driving offence received by the far-left PCTP/MRPP party were among 47 irregularities detected in the audited accounts of the 2019 elections for the European Parliament in Portugal.

The body that audits political accounts and finance, the ECFP, identified the irregularities in the accounts of the 14 parties and two coalitions that took part in the elections; these were communicated to public prosecutors for possible investigation.

The most common irregularities were “deficiencies in documentary support of some expenses and/or revenues” and also the “underestimation of expenses and revenues”, in the case of the People’s Party (CDS-PP) and Socialist Party (PS), for example, according to the ECFP.

The parties with the most irregularities – at nine each – were Nós, Cidadãos (We, Citizens), which was created in 2015, and the coalition Basta! formed by the People’s Monarchist Party (PPM) and the Citizenship and Christian Democracy Party (PPV/CDC).

In the case of Basta!, the ECFP recorded the payment of a debt directly by a donor, amounting to 8,000 euros; it notes that “payment by a third party of a campaign expense constitutes an indirect donation that is prohibited” by electoral law.

The coalition also had the only reported case of improper and prohibited payment of campaign expenses by individuals, in a total amount of 21,919 euros, but the coalition did not clarify if this “related to donations obtained through fundraising activities” and so, “if there are donations from individuals” this was “a breach” of the law.

Nós, Cidadãos is the party of whom the ECFC cites flaws in the “documentary support of declarations of donations in kind and the transfer of goods as a loan,” along with the late submission of budget and campaign accounts.

In the case of PCTP/MRPP there was just one irregularity, the payment of a 100 euros fine for an electoral campaign vehicle that could not, according to the ECFC, form part of official campaign expenses because this rental car was not included in the accounts.

The PS, which won the 2019 European elections, had two irregularities: “deficiencies in the documentary support of some expenses” totaling 570,000 euros and campaign actions or resources not recorded in the final accounts of the elections.

The Socialists have cases of expenses not fully clarified such as as the company Naughty Boys, which charged 40,000 euros for airtime but which, the entity notes, “does not detail the information on the constitution of the team, number of hours of each technician, number of hours of studio and respective unit values” and was thus deemed to be irregular.

The same happened with a company that assembled structures, with a total expenditure of 132,210 euros, where there were also problems with the information about services provided.

The European elections that took place on 26 May 2019 were won by the PS, with 33.3% of the vote, securing nine members of the European Parliament, followed by the centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD), with 21.9% and six members, the Left Bloc (BE) with 9.8% and Communist-led CDU coalition with 6.8% – with two members each. The CDS-PP with 6.1% and People-Animals-Nature (PAN) with 5% each elected one member.

In 2014 Portugal’s Constitutional Court sentenced eight political parties and their agents to pay fines totaling 56,950 euros for irregularities in the campaign accounts for the 2009 elections to the European Parliament.

All parties with seats in parliament were fined, with the exception of the Left Bloc. The Movimento Esperança Portugal (MEP – Hope Portugal Movement) escaped the fine because it was defunct by the time of the ruling, although its agent was given a 500 euros fine for the irregularities in its campaign accounts.