Kampala — The first batch of ballot papers for the February 18 presidential and parliamentary elections arrives in the country today from South Africa where they were printed, the Electoral Commission (EC) has confirmed.
The ballot papers were printed by Ms Paarl Media of South Africa which won the tender to print the key voting material for presidential, parliamentary and district woman councillors.
"We wish to assure all stakeholders that the printing of ballot papers is on schedule and the first consignment for presidential and parliamentary elections is scheduled for arrival at Entebbe International Airport on January 28," EC chairperson Badru Kiggundu said while briefing the country about the commission's preparations for the exercise yesterday.
The first ballots will be cast on February 18 in an election which has seen eight candidates vie for the presidency and 1,747 parliamentary candidates fighting for 458 slots.
The presidential candidates are Amama Mbabazi (Independent), Dr Kizza Besigye (Forum for Democratic Change [FDC]), President Museveni (NRM), Dr Abed Bwanika (PDP), Prof Venansius Baryamureeba (Independent), Ms Maureen Kyalya (Independent), Maj Gen Benon Biraaro (Farmers Party of Uganda), and Mr Joseph Mabirizi (Independent).
Other companies expected to deliver ballot papers in the coming days include TALL Security Print Ltd of United Kingdom (for sub-county chairpersons and sub-county directly-elected councillors), Ms Al Ghurair Printing and Publishing House from the United Arab Emirates (for district chairpersons, district directly-elected councillors and sub-county women councillors), and Picfare Industries (for municipality mayors, municipality councillors and special interest group councillors).
The Shs45 billion tender to the four companies was challenged by two other tenderers - South Africa-based Ren-Form CC Printers, and UK-based Kalamazoo Secure Solutions.
The Public Procurement and Disposal Unit (PPDA) ruled in favour of the aggrieved companies. The EC however, decided to go ahead with the exercise.
To ensure transparency in the process, political parties and candidates were asked to send representatives to witness the printing process but FDC party spokesperson Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda says that was just a formality.
"Elections are never stolen from South Africa, London or Dubai. For us, sending representatives is just a ceremony. You can witness the printing only for the EC to get your votes and give them to NRM. Our battle is here on the ground," Mr Ssemujju said when contacted.
Ms Margaret Lukowe, the deputy communications director for Mr Mbabazi's Go Forward campaign team, declined to comment on the process until their findings are shared with the EC.
"We are compiling a report, which we shall share with the Electoral Commission tomorrow [today] before we can discuss it with the media," she said.
NRM campaign taskforce spokesperson Mike Sebalu said the process was evidently transparent given that the stakeholders were given a chance to go and witness the process.
"Since we have not received any expression of objection on the company contracted to do the work, the manner in which the process has been handled and the fact that we have reached the stage of delivery means that we have had a credible process," he said.
EC secretary Sam Rwakoojo allayed fears from some political circles that more than the necessary ballot papers would be printed to facilitate rigging.
"We have a specific number of polling stations and each of those we know the voters therein. The packing is by booklets of 50, so if, for example, a polling station has 200 voters, we pack 250 because if all the 200 came to vote and two or three are spoilt, you still need those people to vote so we pack extra in that polling station to cover any eventualities," he said.
Mr Rwakooja said there would be no extra ballot papers packed separately from those that the company will have issued.
Dr Kiggundu also announced that EC was in the process of vetting the applicants for the 140,050 positions including presiding officers and polling assistants to run the 28,010 polling stations during the 2016 exercise.
Meanwhile, EC has completed the process of packing all generic materials which will be used in the exercise. These include pens, strings, stamp pads, polythene sheets, rubber bands, ink pad, election forms, report forms, oaths, and official report books, among others.
"The dispatch of transparent ballot boxes, cordoning tapes, basins and solar lamps has already commenced to all districts. At a later stage, the EC will include in each box, the national voters' register and ballot papers for each respective polling station, before dispatch on polling day," Dr Kiggundu said.
Also, EC has appointed January 30, as the day for public demonstration of the recently unveiled Biometric Voter Verification (BVV) kit in all districts of the country while the Voter Location Slips' (VLS) issuing will start two weeks to the voting day at every parish in the country.
The VLS according to the EC is a response to complaints raised in the past elections where some voters reported difficulty in locating their polling stations.
It has particulars of the voter including a photograph, identification number, names, date of birth and location. It also bears a barcode which will be read by the biometric voter verification device.
"Please note that this VLS is free of charge and should only be picked by the actual voter in person from the parish supervisors," Dr Kiggundu said.
However, Mr Rwakoojo explained that the most important document on the election day would be the register like in previous elections despite confusion about what people would use with some pointing to the Voter Location Slips and the national Identity Cards.
"If for some unknown reason you don't come with the card or location slip but you are on the register, you will be able to vote though it might cost you some time," he said.
Polling dates for 2016 general election
February 18: President and Parliamentary.
Febuary24: Lord Mayor, directly-elected councillors and women councillors for KCCA, chairpersons, directly-elected councillors and women councilors on district level.
February 26: Councillors for PWDs, Older Persons and Youth to District Councils and KCCA.
March 2: Chairpersons, directly-elected councillors and women councillors for municipality and KCCA divisions .
March 4: PWDs, older persons and youth councillors to municipalities and KCCA divisions
March 9: Chairpersons, directly-elected councillors and women councillors for municipal division, Sub-county and town councils.
March 10: PWDs, older persons and youth councillors to municipal division, sub-county and town councils .