The British National Party was guilty of a "clear failure" to keep accurate financial records for 2008, the Electoral Commission said today. But the commission said that although this was a breach of the law, no sanctions were available to punish the BNP.
After an investigation into the party's affairs for 2008, the commission said: "The registered treasurers for the party in 2008 breached the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 by failing to keep accounting records sufficient to explain, with reasonable accuracy, the financial position of the party at the time."
However, there was no sanction or penalty available to punish the treasurers. Penalties were brought into force this month, but cannot be applied retrospectively.
The commission said because of the state of the records, it could not be certain that the party's submitted reports of donations were accurate. But the investigation "found no specific evidence to lead to the conclusion that they were not accurate".
Chief executive of the Electoral Commission Peter Wardle said: "Political parties are required by law to keep accurate financial records, and this clear failure to do so is a serious matter. It undermines the party's ability to demonstrate, and the commission's ability to verify, that the party is complying with the law. It is frustrating that, although we established that the party breached party funding law by not keeping adequate financial records, there are no sanctions available to us in relation to this breach.
"This has now changed for breaches of the law that occur after December 1 2010, when we have access to a new set of powers and sanctions. We have written to the party setting out our concerns. We will be meeting with senior party officials as soon as possible to ensure that their procedures for complying with the law are adequate, and monitoring the party to ensure they implement any necessary changes without delay."