2021 election: What will happen if EC lacks money?

Tuesday February 04 2020
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Left to right: Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the EC secretary, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, and the Minister of Finance, Mr Matia Kasaija, appear before MPs yesterday. Photo by David Lubowa

The Electoral Commission (EC) has said a number of activities on the roadmap which will lead to the presidential, parliamentary and lower elections next year will stall, unless the Ministry of Finance finds money for the exercise.

The EC cited the nomination of the presidential candidates, which it said has not been funded and could potentially fail the 2021 elections.

Some of the activities which are being affected by lack of funds include display of the voters’ register, voting of special interest groups and purchase of relevant voting materials for up-coming elections.

Mr Sam Rwakoojo, the EC secretary, told Daily Monitor yesterday the whole electoral process will be affected should any activity stall.
“One activity leads to another and if we fail to fund any of them, the election will not happen. We need to pay the [voter register] displaying officials at village level, supervisors at parish and sub-county level,” Mr Rwakoojo said.

According to the EC website, displaying officials earn Shs20,000 per day at village level while those at parish and sub-county level are paid Shs30,000 per day.

This means that the commission will spend about Shs1.3b for the 68,649 villages, about Shs600m on the 2,057 parishes and Shs300m on the 10,011 sub-counties.
While appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Legal Affairs last month, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, said to organise proper elections, the commission needs Shs518.9b yet the money they have is only enough to conduct presidential nominations.

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Without breaking down the figures, Justice Byabakama also said EC needs to print ballot papers, procure election materials, specialised equipment, procurement of biometric voter verification systems and others, but there is no money for such activities.

However, a week later, in a turn of events, the Minister of State for Planning, Mr David Bahati, and the Finance ministry’s director of budget, Mr Kenneth Mugambe, told the committee that they had a proposal to borrow Shs2.4 trillion.

Mr Bahati said part of the money was meant to fund the EC budget shortfall of Shs518b to enable them conduct elections next year.
Mr Rwakoojo yesterday said they had not yet received any money and the programmes are pending.

“We have not yet received the money and we hope it comes in because we are already running behind time on the activities that we are supposed to be carrying out at different levels,” he added.

Asked to comment about the proposed loan from Stanbic Bank, Mr Jim Mugunga, the Finance ministry spokesperson, said he had not yet received details of the progress on the process of acquiring the loan.

“Everything here follows a process. I will find out how far but all this is a process. I wouldn’t give details about the same because I don’t have them,” Mr Mugunga said.

Mr Crispyn Kaheru, the former coordinator of Citizens Coalition for Electoral Democracy in Uganda, said besides procuring new biometric systems and printing ballot papers from abroad, government should upgrade the available machines and print the ballots locally.

“If the country procured biometric technology (worth Shs90b) for the 2016 general elections and that technology is still seen to be functional, why should we procure new biometric kits (for another Shs115b) again? May be we should be talking about upgrading them. This is going to be a strain on the national budget, definitely. Secondly, we have more than Shs80b dedicated to printing ballot papers from abroad. Why don’t we explore printing those ballot papers here in Uganda?” he asked.

“Elections are an important cornerstone of democracy, but we also have to be alive to the fact that they have no direct return on investment like agriculture, tourism etc. Therefore, every coin that is invested in them has to be thoroughly justified,” he added.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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