16 November 2012

Uganda: EC Spends Sh4.55b on By-Elections

The Electoral Commission (EC) has spent over sh4.55b of the tax payers' on organizing by-elections in the last one year.

The Secretary to EC, Sam Rwakojjo said each by-elections cost the tax payer between sh50m and sh600m to organise. Eleven by-elections have been conducted at the Parliamentary level.

The by-elections have been held in Bushenyi-Ishaka and Entebbe Municipality, Jinja East, Luwero for the Woman MP Seat, and Bukoto South in Lwengo District.

Other Constituencies are Butambala County, Kamuli LC5 seat, Usuk County, Kasese Woman MP, Butambala County, Busiro North Constituency.

The electorates jubilate whenever there is a by-election expecting to get gifts, like soap and sugar from the candidates, forgetting hey foot the bills for the by-elections.

Rwakojjo said the amount of money spent on the by-election varies according to the size of the constituency and distance from the center.

By-elections in big constituencies, like Luwero, Kasese and Kamuli Districts may cost between sh500m and sh600, Rwakojjo said.

On average then the tax payer has spent about sh1.65b to organize the by-elections in the three constituencies.

For the other nine smaller constituencies, an average of sh325m was spent on each of the by-elections. In total the tax payer spent sh2.9b on the nine by-elections.

With sh1.65b spent on the by-elections in the three constituencies and sh2.9b for the smaller constituencies, the tax payer has spent sh4.55b on all the by-elections.

The sh4.55b can buy 227,500 dosages of most of the Malaria drug that cost sh20,000.

But the by-elections are not about to end. Each day, court nullifies an election over a malpractice and declares a constituency vacant.

In Luwero, the by-election for the Woman MP Seat may be conducted more than once time in a year. The High Court has cancelled the election of two area MPs twice in a year.

The tax payers' money is spent on a by-election when primary school teachers and health workers are complaining of low pay.

Many roads in the country are also in a sorry state and the money spent on by-elections could be used to improve them.

But Rwakojo said the by-elections are a necessary burden in a democracy.

"It's better for the people who are dissatisfied with the election results to go to court than picking up arms to fight the government," Rwakojo said. "That's why by-elections are a good evil."

He however noted that the law makers should tighten electoral laws to ensure people convicted of electoral offenses are barred from contesting in by-elections.

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