There are some situations where prosecution for a late return is not warranted. Parties that didn’t make it into Parliament I would treat somewhat more leniently. They have no MPs, probably no office and no staff and probably no donations.
Likewise if the return is simply a nil return, then again I would not be so worried.
And if the return is just one or even two days late, not the end of the world. However the 30 April deadline is four months after the time period they cover, so there is little excuse for lack of time.
ACT appear to have simply been tardy and say it is with the Auditor. They really should be asking some hard questions of the person responsible for the tardiness, because it might get them into court.
NZ First’s situation is far worse. They are simply refusing to comply with the law, saying they can’t file their return until their Party Leader is back in NZ on the 16th of May. This is totally unacceptable to say the least, for the following reasons:
- This is a simple compliance task. The Party Secretary just fills in the form stating how many donations over $10,000 they got and who they were from. It is not rocket science. There is no role for a party leader in this task.
- The suspicion is they do not wish to file until Winston is here to handle any media spin on their donations return. Again totally totally unacceptable. Statutory deadlines are not there to be ignored for the benefit of media management.
- It is in the public record that there has been wildly contrasting accounts from the (former) President and the Leader regarding a large anonymous donation in December 2007. The former says they got one and the latter says no they did not. This makes the official audited donations return of even greater public interest.
If the Electoral Commission do not prosecute NZ First especially (I think they should also prosecute ACT, but they at least do not appear to be deliberately flouting the law) then what incentive is there for the parties that do comply with the Electoral Act and Electoral Finance Act?