Commission failed to spot wrong dates on accounts of two parties
The issue of how Northern Ireland's political parties report financial information has resurfaced after it was found that incorrect dates were used to finalise auditors' statements verifying Sinn Fein and DUP annual accounts for 2015.
There has been widespread coverage in recent years surrounding the secrecy of donations to political parties here, as well as inaccuracies in how election spending is reported to the authorities. And now, an investigation by thedetail.tv has revealed apparent discrepancies in how parties report their basic running costs.
Inaccuracies on the statements by Sinn Fein and DUP auditors were blamed on typographical errors and there is no suggestion of any financial wrongdoing by the parties or their auditors.
The auditor's signature included in Sinn Fein's accounts for 2015 was inaccurately dated six months before the year end, in July 2015. A party spokesperson said: "This is, of course, a typo. It should read 1st July 2016."
The auditor's signature included in the DUP accounts for the year ending December, 2015, was inaccurately dated 17 months earlier in June 2014.
The detail.tv said that was also as a result of a typing error. The spokesperson said that the Electoral Commission had been approached in order to rectify the issue.
Former chairman of Westminster's Committee on Standards in Public Life Sir Alistair Graham said: "I am surprised that the Electoral Commission for Northern Ireland has not picked up the deficiencies when this must be a core task of their responsibilities."
The Electoral Commission said: "Parties with income or expenditure over £250,000 are required to have their accounts audited and submit a copy of the auditor's report with the accounts. This is a statutory duty placed on the party.
"In line with our statutory duties we then publish these accounts. We were not aware of the discrepancies in the audit reports for Sinn Fein and the DUP. We will follow this up with the parties."