The State Audit Office (ÁSZ) has issued its final decision assessing a HUF 663 million (USD 2.6 million) fine on Hungary’s second-largest party, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik), reports 24.hu. The decision closely resembles that of the draft decision of December 6th according to which the radical right-wing party would be fined HUF 663 million for allegedly accepting “forbidden campaign contributions” in the form of a heavily discounted billboard campaign involving billboards owned by former Fidesz oligarch Lajos Simicska.
Jobbik is now obliged to pay HUF 331.5 million (USD 1.3 million) within 15 days of the final decision, and to be deprived of an additional HUF 331,5 million in state party support.
It is the first decision of its kind issued since ÁSZ was put in charge of overseeing the finances of political parties at the time of the system change in 1989.
Jobbik claims that the affair is politically motivated, and that the governing Fidesz-KDNP political alliance is abusing its power by using ÁSZ to make it impossible for Jobbik to effectively campaign in the months leading up to the general election.
To date Jobbik has raised some HUF 50 million (USD 195,000) by launching an appeal to party faithful.
According to the report “the party failed to verify that it had used public funds in a transparent and accountable manner. The party obstructed the conduct of the State Auditor’s Office’s inspection. On the basis of official risk assessment, ÁSZ continues to maintain that Jobbik received prohibited campaign contributions during the first half of 2017.”
“The report continues to obscure the manner in which the State Auditor’s Office calculated that Jobbik saved HUF 331,660,000 by advertising on Lajos Simicska’s billboards. Neither does Jobbik urge the clarification of matters by failing to make the billboard contracts available.”
The daily online further writes that:
“What is strange is that numerous lawyers called attention to the deficiencies of the draft report, but the State Auditor’s Office neglected to address these concerns. Also, it is conspicuous that even though Jobbik tried to cooperate with ÁSZ, the state organ obstructed Jobbik in this in an absurd manner. It is also worth noting that previously it had problems with Fidesz billboard contracts — in particular the absence of invoices for millions of forints worth of billboards — proof of which was shown to ÁSZ but which was not willing to report the matter to authorities.”