By Lowri Pitcher
On Tuesday, February 18 it was announced that pro-Welsh independence party, Plaid Cymru has been fined £29,268 for failing to report nearly £500,000 worth of party donations.
The Electoral Commission reports that Plaid Cymru failed to correctly register nine spending reports over a two-year period. The Party failed to correctly detail a total of 36 cash donations with the sum of the donations totalling over £497,000.
The Electoral Commission is the independent body which oversees elections and regulates political finance in the United Kingdom. Registered political parties are required to report donations, loans, election/referendum campaign spending and their annual accounts to the Commission, a body which is also entitled to investigate the aforementioned elements in political parties in the UK.
Director of regulation at the Commission, Louise Edwards said: “The total number and value of donations omitted from Plaid Cymru’s quarterly reports is significant and reveals a substantial degree of non-compliance. Plaid Cymru is a well-established party and it should be able to meet its reporting obligations.”
A Plaid Cymru spokesman stated that: “The matters highlighted by the Commission are historic in nature and do not involve any private donations...As soon as Plaid Cymru were notified, the Party immediately corrected this oversight and is now in full compliance. All public funds have been fully reported in the party’s Annual Report.”
This is Plaid Cymru’s first major sanction by the Electoral Commission in recent years. The Party has only been investigated by the Electoral Commission twice previous to the most recent offence. Plaid Cymru was fined a £500 variable monetary penalty for the late delivery of quarterly reports which was paid on June 18, 2018. Additionally, in the last year, the Plaid Cymru Westminster accounting unit was investigated for the late delivery of 2015, 2016 and 2017 statements of accounts but the Commission rules that there were “mitigating factors involved” so the issue was not considered an offence, no sanctions were given and the case was closed without further action.
Fines issued by the Electoral Commission are not unusual for many political parties. However, the severity of the offence which merited a fine of nearly £30,000 is very unusual. Many parties have received fines of approximately £400 each for the failure to present spending reports by a specific deadline.
In a comparable instance, the Labour Party was made to pay £1,000 in June 2018 for failing to deliver accurate quarterly donations reports, the same charge as Plaid Cymru has received. However, the scale of Plaid’s penalty demonstrates that this has been a fundamental “lack of effective internal processes” as described by the Commission.
Plaid Cymru now has a two week period, ending on March 2, to pay the fine.