By Shabibah Nakirigya
The Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) has advised political parties to stop relying on funding from government but instead find alternatives sources to finance their election activities.
Mr Fred Musisi, the ACFIM treasurer, said once the suggestion is implemented, it will help political parties overcome the contention and inequality caused by the current form of financing which is based on a party's representation in Parliament.
"Political parties should stop relying on government funding but identify and nurture other legitimate sources of income. However, for this to happen, government must ensure there is a conducive political environment for parties to organise, mobilise, aggregate and articulate citizens interests," Mr Musisi said.
Section 14(b) of the Political Parties and Organisation Act 2010 states: "In respect of elections, government shall finance political organisations and parties on equal basis."
However, since the 2011 elections, government has only adopted Section 14(C) of the same Act which provides:
"In respect of normal day to day activities, funding shall be based on the numerical strength of each political party or organisation in Parliament."
Last week a row erupted between political parties on Shs15b that government released last week.
The Interparty Organisation for Dialogue (IPOD) chairperson, Mr Asuman Basalirwa, said the money should be shared equally among all political parties that have representatives in Parliament.
However, all political parties with representation in Parliament shared the money based on their numerical strength in Parliament.
The ruling NRM got the largest share because of its 293 majority MPs in Parliament, followed by Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) with 36 MPs, Democratic Party (15), Uganda People's Congress (UPC) with six and Justice Forum (Jeema) with one.
Mr Henry Muguzi, the ACFIM executive director, said the recommendation is because their attempts to push government implement Section 14(b) of the Political Parties and Organisations Act have failed.
"We have tried to engage stakeholders and that has not been done. In 2011, the excuse was that the law had just come into effect and we expected that this would be done in 2016 but it didn't happen," Mr Muguzi said.
The leadership of ACFIM is planning to seek legal interpretation on the matter so that the government through the Ministry of Finance gives all parties with MPs in Parliament equal share of the money.
"We are considering seeking court interpretation on this matter. Money should be shared equally because all political parties face the same number of electorates during campaigns," Mr Muguzi said.
"We are giving the Ministry of Finance about three months to act on this matter. If we go through elections and then nothing is done, then we shall take action," he added.
Recently, the National Unity Platform leadership asked party members and other well-wishers to make financial contributions to help the party finance the nomination process for candidates and other activities.
During the Jeema party delegates conference month, Mr Basalirwa asked members to make financial contributions to facilitate party activities.
Response from political parties
Mr Harold Kaija, the FDC deputy secretary, supported the proposal for alternative sources of funding for parties but warned that it creates a risk of Uganda receiving funding from organisations with sinister motives. "That is okay but what was the logic behind government financing political parties? This had been done because they never wanted political parties to get funding from countries that are possibly hostile to Uganda," Mr Kaija said.
He added: "I am not totally against parties mobilising their own funds because the money they [government] give us is not even a quarter of the money we spend but it helps political parties to be owned by Ugandans and that way we are even compelled to be accountable."
Mr Fred Mwesigwa, the presidential press secretary of the Democratic Party, backed the call for alternative funding.
"What they are saying is right because if we don't also look outside the box, we also don't survive. So that is right because the government is acting in bad faith. They want us to be underfunded," Mr Mwesigwa said.