ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green. Photo: Jay Cronan
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The ACT Liberal Party has been fined more than $15,000 for failing to comply with the territory's electoral disclosure laws for gifts and donations.
ACT Electoral Commissioner Phil Green slapped the party with $16,500 in fines on Monday for 15 breaches of the territory's electoral laws.
It follows revelations the Liberals did not report tens of thousands of dollars in private donations to electoral authorities.
It is the first time an ACT political party has been penalised under the financial disclosure laws passed by the Legislative Assembly last year.
The infringement is another blow for the Liberals' ACT branch, which has been racked by infighting since February's bitter federal pre-selection battle and has been in a state of financial chaos.
The party's new president, Peter Collins, said in a written statement on Monday that the division accepted responsibility for the breaches and its failure to disclose the gifts was "a lapse".
The Canberra Liberals' parliamentary leader Jeremy Hanson refused to be interviewed.
The fine relates to $38,665 in gifts and donations for 2013-14 that the Canberra Liberals did not declare within 30 days under the ACT's financial disclosure laws.
Under the rules, political parties must disclose any gift or donation of more than $1000 within 30 days of receiving it, and within seven days during an election campaign.
Since the introduction of the laws, the Canberra Liberals have received nearly $190,000 in taxpayer funds to help them comply with the reporting requirements.
The party declared more than $80,000 in late gifts and donations last month for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 financial years.
The party lodged the returns after Fairfax Media highlighted tens of thousands of dollars in discrepancies between the Liberals' 2012-13 annual return and its reports to the commission throughout that financial year.
Fairfax Media also revealed last month that the party had failed to report more than $400,000 in debt to electoral authorities in accordance with financial disclosure laws.
The debts included a $296,000 bank overdraft, which the party also reported to the authorities after Fairfax published the allegations.
Elections ACT will investigate the party's failure to disclose its debt as part of its routine audit of ACT political parties.
"Since the start of this financial year, the Canberra Liberals have submitted 15 gift returns outside of the 30-day disclosure period allowed by the Electoral Act," Mr Green said.
Each penalty applied by the Commissioner carries a fine of $1100.
Under the laws, parties can also face court proceedings for failing to comply and can be hit with fines of up to $27,500 per offence.
While the amounts involved were small, they were a lapse on behalf of the party, and we accept that responsibility," Mr Collins said.
Mr Collins replaced Tio Faulkner at the ACT branch's annual general meeting last month.