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Romania

Transparency in the Funding of Political Parties (RO0056)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Romania Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP)

Support Institution(s): Secretariat General of the Government, Centre for Public Innovation Expert Forum Political parties and alliances Minorities’ organisations participating in elections Independent candidates

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Anti Corruption and Integrity, E-Government, Legislation, Open Data, Political Integrity

IRM Review

IRM Report: Romania Transitional Results Report 2018-2020, Romania Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: No IRM Data

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Transparency in the funding of political parties
2018-2020 Lead implementing agency/actor Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP) Other actors involved State actors Secretariat General of the Government CSOs, private sector, multilaterals, working groups Centre for Public Innovation Expert Forum Political parties and alliances Minorities’ organisations participating in elections Independent candidates What is the public problem that the commitment will address? The Law on Funding Political Parties has clear and detailed provisions on the information that parties have to provide about their sources of funding and spending, both during and between the electoral campaigns. Permanent Electoral Authority collects this information. Some of them are published in the Official Gazette, others on the AEP website, and some are only available on request. Those published both in the Official Gazette and on the AEP website are available in closed formats, which are hard to process. There is no centralized information system that allows quick access to information, search, comparison, and correlation with other data. Commitment description What is the commitment? Publishing in an open format the information provided by political parties on their sources of financing and expenditures, as provisioned by law. How will the commitment contribute to solve the public problem? - Why is this commitment relevant to OGP values? Increased transparency in the funding of political parties Milestone activity with a verifiable deliverable Responsible agency / partner Start Date: End Date: Development of standards and specifications for reporting the required 2018 2018 22 data to the AEP by political parties, as provisioned by law. Development and approval of draft legislation to complement the secondary legislation already in place, with the aim of simplifying the reporting procedures and formats, as well as to introduce the mandatory reporting of data to the AEP in an open format, as provisioned by law. AEP / Government of Romania 2018 June 2019 Publishing the data as submitted by political as open data. AEP July 2019 permanent Additional information Budget As necessary to hire two persons on parliamentary adviser status Correlation with other government programs/strategies National Anticorruption Strategy 2016-2020

IRM Midterm Status Summary

9. Transparency in the funding of political parties

Commitment Text: "Publishing in an open format the information provided by political parties on their sources of financing and expenditures, as provisioned by law."

Milestones:

    • Development of standards and specifications for reporting the required data to the AEP by political parties, as provisioned by law.
    • Development and approval of draft legislation to complement the secondary legislation already in place, with the aim of simplifying the reporting procedures and formats, as well as to introduce the mandatory reporting of data to the AEP in an open format, as provisioned by law.
    • Publishing the data as submitted by political parties as open data.

Start Date: 2018

End Date: July 2019

Editorial Note: The commitment text is abridged. The full text can be found in the OGP 2018-2020 national action plan.

Context and Objectives

Law 334/2006 requires political parties to provide information about the sources of their funding and about their spending, both during and between the electoral campaigns to the Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP). [78] According to an interviewed AEP representative, AEP publishes a fraction of the electronic reports it receives from political competitors (in accordance to law 334/2006) on its website and on the finantarepartide.ro portal since 2019. [79] All forms of electronic documents were uploaded, including noneditable documents (e.g., scanned copies of printed documents that cannot be machine read). While many reports published in 2019 were in editable formats, civil society representatives argued that prior to 2019, most reports were published in noneditable formats. [80] According to a representative of the Center for Public Innovation (CPI), in order to view trends or conduct investigations, the data needs to be transformed into an editable (open) format—e.g., where computers can distinguish numbers, signatures, names, and where similar metrics are used. [81]

Since 2015, the law has been amended several times to provide extra public funding to political parties—e.g., in May 2015, Article 38 was amended to reimburse the campaign costs of parties and candidates who obtained 3 percent or more of the votes, and in January 2018, Article 18 was amended to increase the state funding allocated to political parties to 0.01-0.04 percent of the GDP. Expert Forum and the CPI therefore proposed this commitment, arguing that the large allocation of public funds [82] warrants a greater degree of transparency and openness in format. [83] Currently, data on these funds take time to gather, and are hard to access, search, compare, and correlate with other data. [84]

While verifiable, some of the commitment’s milestones do not explain how they will advance beyond current practice or achieve the commitment’s goal. According to the AEP representative, law 334/2006, HG 10/2016, and the "Guide for electoral campaign financing for the election of the Romanian Members of the European Parliament 26 May 2019" [85] already detail the types of documents that political parties need to present to AEP in editable format. [86] It is unclear which standards and specifications will be further developed, and AEP is still considering how to obligate political parties to supply their reports in an open format. Moreover, AEP reports on the controls of reimbursements to political parties for their campaign expenditures are added on a rolling basis, [87] although not always in an open format. If implemented, therefore, this commitment could have a moderate potential impact by allowing civil society to more easily monitor political spending, electoral fairness, and possibly uncover more fraud and corruption cases. [88]

Next steps

With 37,000,000 euros allocated in 2018 for funding political parties, Romania has the highest level of political subsidy in the EU. [89] Transparency of these subsidies is therefore crucial to the prevention of cronyism and to the preservation of democracy. Consequently, the IRM researcher recommends continuing to increase the transparency of political party finances in future action plans. The following suggestions can help improve this commitment’s design in the next action plan and the scope of intended activities during implementation.

  • Milestone 9.1: AEP could clearly define which reporting standards and specifications it will develop. Expert Forum has expressed concerns that law 334/2006 does not clearly stipulate whether unspent political subsidies must be returned to the state budget or can be kept by political parties, or if subsidies can be used for financing EU parliamentary campaigns according to ordinance (OUG) 6/2019. [90] AEP could therefore develop standards and specifications for political parties to detail how they have spent the state subsidies in during their political campaigns.
  • Milestone 2: AEP could publish the analysis and the recommendations put forward by the the ARGUS project’s diagnostic analysis of the process of controlling the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns. [91] This could allow the public to understand where the bottlenecks lie and what the best solutions to tackling them could be.
  • Milestone 2: As AEP does not have the resources to transform the reports in noneditable formats into editable (open) formats, it could persuade political parties to provide this data directly in an editable (open format) through a normative act [92] or by collecting the reports only through the web platform. If AEP were to collect the reports only through its web platform, it could indirectly impose the editable open formats onto the reports it receives. [93]
  • Milestone 3: AEP could upload historical datasets on the same platform—preferably in open formats and, if not possible, in noneditable formats—to ensure that financial reports of political parties are centralized in a single repository.

Finally, according to the AEP representative, the deadline for the implementation of this commitment may need to be extended to the second half of 2020 because of the frequency of legislative modifications in the field of political finances (i.e., law 148/2019, OUG 6/2019, and OUG 29/2019), cumulated with the Parliamentary Elections in November 2019. [94]

[78] Law 334/2006 on the funding of the activities of political parties and of political campaigns, available [in Romanian] at https://bit.ly/2ZOlenW.

[79] Interview with Octavian Chesaru, Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP), 28 August 2019.

[80] Interview with Septimiu Parvu, Expert Forum, 23 April 2019; Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, Center for Public Innovation (CPI), 16 April 2019.

[81] Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, CPI, 16 April 2019.

[82] Romania has one of the highest budgets allocated for the financing of political campaigns in the EU. See Expert Forum (2019) "Bugetele partidelor româneşti", policy brief 74, available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2lXLduA.

[83] Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, ibid.

[84] Interview with Septimiu Parvu, Expert Forum, 23 April 2019; Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, CPI, 16 April 2019.

[85] "Ghidul Finanțării Campaniei Electorale La Alegerea Membrilor Din România În Parlamentul European", Autoritatea Electorala Permanenta, April 2019, available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2mjW81J.

[86] Interview with Octavian Chesaru, AEP, 28 August 2019.

[87] Interview with Octavian Chesaru, AEP, 28 August 2019.

[88] Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, CPI, 16 April 2019.

[89] Expert Forum (2019) "Bugetele partidelor româneşti", policy brief 74, pg. 3, available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2lXLduA.

[90] Expert Forum (2019) "Bugetele partidelor româneşti", policy brief 74, available [in Romanian] at http://bit.ly/2lXLduA.

[91] AEP carries out, as a beneficiary, the ARGUS project "Integrity, ethics, transparency, anticorruption in the financing of political parties and electoral campaigns," a project co-financed from the European Social Fund through the Operational Program Administrative Capacity 2014-2020.

[92] Interview with Ovidiu Voicu, CPI, 16 April 2019).

[93] Interview with Septimiu Parvu, Expert Forum, 23 April 2019.

[94] Interview with Octavian Chesaru, AEP, 28 August 2019.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

9. Transparency in the funding of political parties

Substantial

According to a representative of the Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP), law 334/2006, HG 10/2016, and the “Guide for electoral campaign financing for the election of the Romanian Members of the European Parliament 26 May 2019” already detail the types of documents that political parties need to present to AEP, and in which editable format. [51] Therefore, AEP considered the first milestone of this commitment (to develop standards for reporting mandatory data to AEP by political parties) to be already fulfilled.

In June 2020, AEP created a draft normative act to complete and modify law 334/2006, which would standardize and clarify how political parties need to use, account for, and report on, public subsidies, how electoral campaigns can be funded, and how public subsidies can be used in local and parliamentary elections. [52] Civil society groups proposed changes to the draft, [53] but few of their proposed changes are present in the September 2020 consolidated version of law 334/2006. [54]

According to the OGP repository, AEP continued to publish data received by political parties as open data (but often not in an editable format) to its website http://www.finantarepartide.ro. [55] This publishing practice largely continued AEP’s existing practice from before the fourth action plan.

[51] Interview with Octavian Chesaru, Permanent Electoral Authority (AEP), 28 August 2019.
[52] Radio Romania Libera, 9 June 2020, AEP propune modificarea Legii privind finanţarea activităţii partidelor [in Romanian], https://bit.ly/2JDJQNy
[53] Expert Forum, 11 June 2020, Comentarii referitoare la proiectul AEP pentru modificarea legii finanțării partidelor și campaniilor electorale [in Romanian], https://bit.ly/3qxUwy1
[54] Law 334/2006 consolidated version with historical changes [in Romanian], https://bit.ly/2JPLXOa
[55] Centralized portal, https://bit.ly/36Gp6Oc

Commitments

Open Government Partnership