Section 15: Control of donations to holders of elective office: compliance officers
66.Section 15 amends the 2000 Act to provide for the appointment of compliance officers to assist holders of relevant elective office with their obligations to report donations under that Act.
67.Subsection (1) inserts a new Part 7 into Schedule 7 to the 2000 Act, which is the Schedule concerned with the control of donations to regulated donees (being certain individuals and members associations). Part 7 contains new paragraphs 17, 18 and 19.
68.Paragraph 17(1) allows, but does not oblige, the holder of a relevant elective office to appoint a ‘compliance officer’. Holders of relevant elective office are defined in paragraph 1(8) of Schedule 7 to the 2000 Act (namely, a member of a registered party, a members association, or a holder of a relevant elective office, whether or not a party member).
69.Paragraph 17(2) sets out the duties that a compliance officer may discharge on behalf of the officer holder and the offences for which they will be held liable if provisions in the 2000 Act are breached. Specifically:
Paragraph 17(2)(a) allows the compliance officer (in addition to the office-holder) to take responsibility for reporting permissible donations (paragraph 10) and impermissible donations (paragraph 11) to the Electoral Commission. As part of this, the compliance officer may make the declaration that must be made in any donation report regarding its accuracy under paragraph 13 of Schedule 7.
Paragraph 17(2)(b) sets out the offences in the 2000 Act with which the compliance officer, the office-holder, or both, may be charged. Specifically, this applies to a compliance officer the offences in section 56(3), (3B) and (4) of the 2000 Act (failure to return a donation from an impermissible donor or to take steps to verify whether the donation is from a permissible donor). It also applies the offences in paragraph 12(1) and 12(2) of Schedule 7 (failing to report to the Commission permissible or impermissible donations within the time limits or failing to report in accordance with the requirements).
Paragraph 17(2)(c) provides that where a compliance officer makes the statutory declaration on a donation report in accordance with paragraph 13 of Schedule 7, the compliance officer instead of the office-holder will be liable for the offence in paragraph 13(4) if he or she knowingly or recklessly makes a false declaration. Where it was the office-holder who made the declaration, the office-holder will remain liable.
70.Paragraph 17(3) protects the compliance officer from liability for the offence under paragraph 12(1) and (2) of Schedule 7 relating to the late or incomplete reporting of any controlled donation received by the office-holder before the compliance officer was appointed. Therefore the office-holder could not seek to share liability for a particular error by appointing the compliance officer after the error has occurred. This protection does not extend to the offence of making a false declaration under paragraph 13 of the same Schedule.
71.Paragraph 17(4) provides that anybody giving false information to a compliance officer relating to the amount of a donation or its source is guilty of an offence. This mirrors the offences of giving false information to a political party or regulated donee.
72.Paragraph 18(1), (2) and (3) sets out the details that a notice appointing a compliance officer must contain. To ensure that both parties have agreed to the appointment, sub-paragraph (1) states that the office-holder must sign the notice and that it must contain a signed statement by the person to be appointed as compliance officer. Sub-paragraph (2) requires the notice to contain the details of the office-holder including their name, position held, address and party affiliation. Sub-paragraph (3) requires the notice to contain details of the person to be appointed as a compliance officer, including their name, address and party membership if relevant.
73.Paragraph 18(4) provides that the notice will be in force from the date on which it is received by the Commission and will lapse 12 months after this date, unless the office-holder or compliance officer gives the Commission a renewal notice that they both wish the original notice to remain in force. A renewal notice to this effect can be given under paragraph 18(5), which provides that such a notice has the effect of extending the validity of the original notice a further 12 months from the point at which it would have previously elapsed, or from the date of expiry of a previous extension. This renewal notice must be received by the Commission within one month of the date on which the most recent notice is due to expire. Paragraph 18(6) provides that a renewal notice must either confirm that all the statements in the original notice remain accurate, or indicate where any information has changed. Both the office-holder and compliance officer must sign this renewal notice.
74.Paragraph 18(7) allows the office-holder and compliance officer to give a “notice of alteration” to the Commission at any time, making alterations to the information provided in an original notice where circumstances have changed. This notice takes effect on the date it is received by the Commission, unless another later date is specified in the notice itself.
75.Paragraph 18(8) stipulates that a notice of alteration must be signed by the office-holder and either the current compliance officer or the individual who will be replacing them.
76.Paragraph 18(9) allows either the compliance officer or the office-holder to provide a signed “notice of termination” to the Commission at any time. This notice can be signed by both parties or by just one party to the original notice. However, to ensure that both parties know if an appointment is terminated, where it is signed by only one party, sub-paragraph (10) requires the Commission to inform the other party that the termination notice has been received as soon as reasonably practicable. If it is signed by both parties the Commission are not required to take this step.
77.Paragraph 19(1) requires the Commission to maintain a register of the notices of appointment of compliance officers which are currently in force. Paragraph 19(2) and (3) requires the Commission to maintain a register of all compliance officer notices, in a form for them to determine and with any new information to be included as soon as is practicable. However, paragraph 19(4) provides that the information entered onto the register shall not include the home addresses of individuals.
78.Subsection (2) of the section inserts provision into Schedule 20 of the 2000 Act, setting out the relevant sanctions available for the offence contained in new paragraph 17(4) of Schedule 7 to the 2000 Act.