Uganda: Govt Directs Electoral Commission to Lower Election Budget

28 January 2020

In what seems to be a twist of events, the Minister of Finance Planning and Economic Development Mr Matia Kasaija has requested the Electoral Commission (EC) to slash its budget for the 2021 general elections.

The electoral body had asked for more than Shs700b. However, Kasaija says his ministry will not be able to finance that amount.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee on Legal Affairs on Tuesday, Mr Kasaija told MPs that his ministry is already facing a challenge of revenue shortfall and therefore will most likely not be able to meet the 'high' demands of the electoral body.

This follows concerns raised by officials from the electoral body while presenting their budget framework paper for the Financial Year 2020/2021 that the funds available can only push them to the nomination exercise of candidates.

The commission's chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama also told Parliament that the finance ministry had only released Shs140b out of the Shs439b that was approved to finance the election roadmap in the 2019/2020 Financial Year.

Finance in its budget estimates for the next financial year had allocated Shs200b the electoral body, which the officials from the commission said was insufficient to conduct the election exercise. To carry out the electoral process to completion, EC asked for more Shs518b.

Mr Kasaija told legislators that they are going to sit with EC officials to review the activities and the funding, adding that all would be done to ensure that the electoral process is funded.

However MPs were not about to take in the minister's submission as they accused him of interfering with the work of the electoral body.

"When you say you are reducing, are you not disabling the commission? The experts in this country on elections are telling you what they need and you're saying no," said Medard Sseggona, the Busiro County East MP.

"No, we are not because when we review we are simply focusing on the most critical areas which could take up more. We reduce money for one activity in favour of another. All we are saying is that we could still carry out the same activity with less money," Mr Kasaija said.

However, the minister of state for planning, Mr David Bahati while appearing before the same committee last week said they were doing all it takes to get the required funds. He admitted that there was no money but a plan to borrow was in consideration.

In the budget estimates presented to the budget committee recently for the next financial year, there has been a decline in the total budget from Shs40.4 trillion in the 2019/2020 Financial Year to Shs39.6 trillion comprising of both domestic and external sources. The reduction in resource envelop is mainly caused by a reduction in external financing.

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