The NRM presidential candidate, Yoweri Museveni has spent Shs27 billion on his 2016 campaigns in two months, 12 times more than his two closest challengers combined, according to results of a preliminary study about campaign financing released yesterday.
In the 16 districts reviewed, Mr Museveni spent Shs4.8b in November and Shs22.2b in December, 2015 representing 91.6 per cent of the 29.6b spent by all the candidates in total.
Independent presidential candidate Amama Mbabazi, who followed, in terms of spending, spent a total of Shs1.3b or 4.6 per cent in the same period. Dr Kizza Besigye, the Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) candidate spent a total of Shs976m or 3.3 per cent. The other candidates, Dr Abed Bwanika, Prof Venansius Baryamureeba, Ms Maureen Kyalya, Maj Gen Benon Biraro and Mr Joseph Mabirizi spent less than 1 per cent of the Shs29.6b combined. Prof Baryamureeba spent Shs95,732,000 while Abed Bwanika used Shs34,311,000 and Joseph Mabirizi Shs26,486,000. Maureen Kyalya used Shs5,692,500.
The expenditure of Gen Benon Biraro was not reviewed in the study.
The study was funded by Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) and conducted by Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), a loose coalition of CSO activists advocating increased transparency in the practice of financing political parties and election campaigns in Uganda, including Transparency International and Anti-corruption Coalition.
Out of the Shs137.6b spent, NRM accounted for 87.9 per cent or Shs121b in November and December. FDC followed at 2.1 per cent, Go-Forward at 1.1 per cent, Democratic Party at 0.5 per cent and Uganda Peoples Congress at 0.3 per cent. The rest accounted for 0.3 per cent of the total expenditure. “...As European Union Observer Mission, we shall try to get all financial reports from the Electoral Commission and issue our findings after the elections,” said Dr Jurij Toplak, the EUOM, Campaign Finance Analyst while reacting to the report.
Mr Ofwono Opondo, the deputy NRM spokesperson, says their huge expenditure is justified. “No other party or organisation has held activities such as NRM has done. Tasked to explain the source of the money, Mr Opondo said “the party received money from the electoral commission. We also fund raise and get support from volunteers.”
The report faults political parties and candidates participating in the 2016 campaigns of being “poor at keeping records of expenditure.” It also noted that candidates were engaging in voter bribery and misuse of government resources. The report cites materials such as hoes, sugar, sauce pans, seeds and salt distributed by campaign agents to potential voters. “On 9th November, 2015, a number of government vehicles were used on candidate Museveni’s rally held at Kasana Playground. Some of the vehicle registration plates observed in action at the rally included UG 2183C, UG 0178H, and UG 0187D,” an excerpt from the report reads.
Section 27 of the presidential elections act (as amended) 2005 makes it illegal to use government resources for campaigning for election.
Mr Opondo said only the president, the vice president and the Speaker are allowed to use government property in campaigns. “If there are ministers and government officials taking advantage of their positions, we would be glad if someone gives us evidence,” Mr Opondo, who doubles as the Government Media Center Executive Director, said.
FDC party spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda says the president is exorbitantly sponsored by the State against his opponents. Jothan Taremwa, the Electoral Commission spokesman, said: “It is extremely difficult to track campaign expenditure because in the first place we don’t know how much someone has budgeted to spend.”
The report makes three recommendations including relevant government institutions such as the Inspectorate of government, Police and the Electoral Commission investigating further the breaches of the electoral laws.
It also appeals to government through the Justice Ministry to amend legal provisions on voter bribery in both the Presidential and Parliamentary Acts of 2005. Further, the report appeals to all Ugandans to fight the commercialisation of politics and embrace the practice of ordinary citizens making donations to candidates of their choice.
ACFIM monitors used scientific tools to collect data on campaign expenses, voter bribery and misuse of government resources for campaigns at constituency level. Filled campaign expenses tools were then submitted to district supervisors who moved between constituencies for data quality assurance. A team of experts at ACFIM secretariat frequently carried out data quality control checks across the 16 districts. Collected data was then entered into a web based database. Also, monitors submitted data on campaign events observed directly and indirectly. Critical incidents were transmitted to supervisors in real time by the use of phone calls or SMS.
Section 22(7) of the Presidential Elections Act provides that: “Each [presidential] candidate shall, within thirty days after the election, …(b) Submit a return to the Commission disclosing all assistance obtained by the candidate from any source.”