National Audit Office to probe membership fee income of Siderov’s Ataka

Bulgaria’s National Audit Office is to investigate the income declared to be from membership fees of Volen Siderov’s ultra-nationalist minority party Ataka.

In 2014, Ataka – which, like all other registered political parties, has to lodge annual financial statements with the National Audit Office – declared that it had received 702 000 leva (about 359 000 euro) from 150 donors, including Siderov, declared to have donated 9000 leva to his party.

Ataka, which started 2014 with two members of the European Parliament and ended it with none, started 2014 with 23 members of the National Assembly and ended it – after early elections – with 11, received a state subsidy of 3.21 million leva.

Siderov’s party told the National Audit Office that in 2014, it received 1 273 000 leva in membership fees. Three years earlier, it did not declare income from membership fees, the following year it declared 90 000 leva and the year after that, about 300 000 leva.

In contrast, GERB, the centre-right party that in 2009, 2013 and 2014 won the single largest shares of seats in Parliament, received 88 000 leva in membership fees. The Bulgarian Socialist Party, lineal successor to the Bulgarian Communist Party and that claims an age of more than 100 years, and which has won the second-largest share of seats in the three most recent elections, got 1.25 million leva in membership fees.

National Audit Office head Tsvetan Tsvetkov, who has held that post since March 26 2015 after the Parliament elected in 2014 approved changed laws governing the office, said in a Nova Televizia interview on April 28 that Ataka would be checked, as would Nikolai Barekov’s Bulgaria Without Censorship party.

Bulgaria Without Censorship was formed around former talk show host Barekov in January 2014, arising out of a television roadshow. After mounting a well-resourced campaign to promote its populist platform, it won two of Bulgaria’s 17 European Parliament seats in May, and in the October early parliamentary elections, 14 out of 240 National Assembly seats.

The party has been imploding steadily, with individual MEPs, MPs and coalition partners withdrawing, with Barekov – who chose to remain an MEP – parting ways with his parliamentary group, the rump of which has renamed itself Bulgarian Democratic Centre.

On April 15, in announcing a summary of political parties’ declarations for 2014, including regarding those that had not done so, the audit office said that Barekov’s Bulgaria Without Censorship had not submitted a list of donors.

The office noted that breaching the law by either filing an incomplete declaration or failing to file one at all could mean fines and suspension of the party’s state subsidy.

Barekov reacted angrily, saying that his party had filed its list of donors, while it was reported that this list had been in the wrong format.

In a further statement on April 16, the National Audit Office said that it had that day received a list of individuals who had donated to BWC. The office said that the list complied in form and content with the legal requirements, but had been received after the March 31 deadline, meaning that the party was in breach of the Political Parties Act.

Barekov, in a television interview on April 27, said that at the time of the declaration, about 10 per cent of the personal identity numbers of donors had been missing from the declaration, but this omission had then been corrected.

Asked in the April 28 Nova Televizia interview whether BWC’s subsidy would be stopped, Tsvetkov said that the National Audit Office had no legal right to stop a subsidy and such decisions were made by the Minister of Finance.

Tsvetkov said that the office would inform Finance Minister Vladislav Goranov and the National Revenue Agency about the irregularities regarding the BWC financial statements. He said that it was not physically possible to confirm whether people declared to be donors actually were.

Tsvetkov confirmed that on March 31, BWC had submitted a list of 524 donors, adding more than 800 on April 15.



The Sofia Globe staff

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