Ombudsman to investigate State Audit Office’s fining of Együtt

January 5, 2018

National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information to investigate State Audit Office's fining of Együtt
Photo: index.hu/Szabolcs Barakonyi

The National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information will investigate the State Audit Office’s proposed fining of opposition party Együtt, reports Magyar Nemzet.

One section of the report compiled by the State Audit Office of Hungary (ÁSZ) in December which envisages a HUF 20 million (USD 77,000) fine on the Együtt (Together) party for “prohibited campaign finance” might violate privacy rights, according to the party.

Namely, ÁSZ determined that a HUF 62,000 membership fee payment from a party member was wrongfully booked as a donation, which according to the ÁSZ constitutes as “prohibited party financing”. However, according to Együtt ÁSZ could not possess any information regarding citizens’ involvement in political parties as this is especially protected private data.

President of the National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information (NAIH) Attila Péterfalvi told Magyar Nemzet that a report had already been filed to NAIH about the case independently from Együtt and that NAIH will investigate it.

NAIH will have to determine what information, based on the law, is available to ÁSZ. In the meantime, Péterfalvi could not confirm whether ÁSZ had violated the law.

Együtt chairman Péter Juhász (pictured) personally confronted ÁSZ communications director Bálint Horváth on Wednesday, to find out how ÁSZ could know whether somebody is a member of Együtt or not. Juhász posed the question multiple times in vain, with Horváth continually repeating that “ÁSZ is undertaking its job in accordance with the law.”

Later that day on ATV’s Egyenes Beszéd (Straight Talk) program, Juhász said the case raises a suspicion that a criminal offense had been committed. Együtt earlier stated that should ÁSZ finalize the HUF 20 million fine, the party would not be able to cover its costs in January and February.

Starting with the radical right-wing Jobbik, ÁSZ proposed to fine five opposition parties (including Politics Can Be Different, Democratic Coalition, Együtt and Dialogue for Hungary) for alleged “prohibited campaign finance”. Such a move is unprecedented in ÁSZ’s 28 years of operation. The fines (ranging from HUF 5 million to Jobbik’s HUF 330 million) would be a serious blow to the opposition parties, which are already facing a strong pro-government media controlled by Fidesz-linked businessmen in the run-up to the national election in spring.