Election funding gap was ‘administrative error’ says Carla

Carla Lockhart

Carla Lockhart

More than £11k of funding for the DUP’s Carla Lockhart election campaign which had been unaccounted for, was an administrative error, said the Upper Bann candidate.

An investigation by The Detail exposed Carla Lockhart as the MLA with the highest amount of funding which had been unaccounted for during the last election.

She topped the poll in Upper Bann but the investigative online news group discovered that she recorded spending £11,726 on her campaign but provided no evidence of how any this money was raised.

Mrs Lockhart told this newspaper she had borrowed £11k from the Credit Union and funded her election campaign in his entirity by herself. The other £726 was from her personal bank account, she said.

Mrs Lockhart said there was a box on the returns form that she should have ticked to say that the campaign was self-funded.

She offered to show her bank details to prove this.

Mrs Lockhart said she did not get any funding from the DUP and funded last year’s election and this current election herself.

Asked why she did not get funding from the DUP, she said: “It is up to each individual area and that is the way it worked out in Upper Bann.

“Two elections in two years is pretty tough for everyone,” she said.

“I am fighting it and funding it myself as I believe in what I do,” she added.

Despite the long-standing secrecy around party political funding in Northern Ireland, The Detail identified a discrepancy in the law to obtain new information on how the last election campaign was financed.

Electoral return forms are intended to show how much each candidate spent on their campaign and where the money came from, including both donations and self-funding.

The forms for last May’s Assembly election show that Stormont’s 108 MLAs spent over half a million pounds between them on their election campaigns.

However an analysis by The Detail has found there was over £90,000 missing from the breakdown of how 29 MLAs funded their campaigns.

All political parties at Stormont returned forms with discrepancies, but the DUP had the largest sum of money unaccounted for, with eight of its MLAs failing to provide evidence of where £30,000 of their electoral spending originated from.