The APNU+AFC coalition government is being accused by the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) of abusing state funds for campaign purposes. The APNU+AFC should issue a statement responding to these charges, because it is disturbing that these allegations are being made against a government that promised better governance, and which when it was in opposition had leveled similar allegations against the ruling People’s Progressive Party Civic.
The ruling APNU+AFC cannot be expected to simply stop doing the work of government every time there is an election campaign. What it has to do is to indicate how it intends to avoid the use of state resources for political campaigning.
APNU+AFC had complained in the past that state vehicles were used to take Ministers of the then PPP government to political rallies. This was extremely petty, because a Minister is still a Minister before the meeting and after the meeting. He or she cannot be expected to take a special-hire taxi to attend the political meeting of his party and then when the meeting is over, to use the state vehicle to get back home or to work. A Minister should be entitled to use his state-assigned vehicle to attend a political meeting both during and after the meeting.
Similarly, security personnel should be allowed to accompany Ministers and the Head of State to political meetings. The state is obligated to provide security to Ministers and to the Head of State at all times during their incumbency and therefore the provision of this protection cannot be deemed an abuse of state funds.
The AFC and APNU had been very petty in its criticisms of the former regime for use of state vehicles to attend party meetings.
The PPP has issued a statement indicating that it recognizes that the President has a right to visit any part of the country. So too does a Minister, but visits should never be scheduled in a way in which both official and party events coincide. If this is allowed to happen it could mean that a Minister can go campaigning and justify this action on the ground that he or she is undertaking official work.
The separation of party from government functions is not as straightforward as was presumed by APNU+AFC when it was in opposition. Now that it is in government, it is to be expected that the APNU+AFC government would set rules that would allow for the non-abuse of resources of the State for political purposes.
The APNU+AFC government is expected to set the benchmark for avoiding abuses of state funds for political purposes. The nine-month-old government needs to come out with a clear code of conduct to guide its officials during political campaigning periods.
One of the criticisms leveled by the PPP against the government is that the President and a large entourage of Ministers were going to Lethem to campaign. This is of course different from the issue of the use of state vehicles to attend political meetings on the coastland.
This is why it is important for the government to issue a statement indicating how the transportation for this entourage, if the report is true, is going to be paid. The State should not be expected to bear the cost of ferrying any entourage to a political rally this distance away from the seat of government.
It would be hard to justify the large transportation expenses of any entourage for political campaigning on the grounds that these persons do not lose their official status both before and after the campaign meeting, and therefore are entitled to official transportation for such long distances. That cannot be acceptable.
There have to be some rules governing these things and the government should examine what happens in other countries and promote a policy that is in line with how some of the established democracies deal with this issue.
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