With just 10 months to next year’s election, the electoral commission has today surprisingly indicated that it has no money to bankroll key election day activities including Shs 1.4billion for the counting of results and over Shs7b to enable elections for special interest groups.
The commission chairman has told MPs that it has a funding gap of Shs70 bn.
Kiggundu says some of the unfunded priorities include payment of polling officials and tallying of results which the commission says if un catered for would force it to either incur domestic arrears to deliver the 2016 elections or postpone some of the activities.Key activities whose funding is still hanging in the balance include Shs 23b for the payment of polling day officials for presidential and parliamentary elections,Shs 3b for election of regional Youth MPs,Shs 1b for the election of PWDs representatives and Shs 620m for the election of Workers MPs.
Shs 9b to cater for allowances for training of polling officials ,Shs 776m to purchase training materials for polling officials and Shs 6.6m for gazetting of Special Interest Groups Parliamentary elections also remain unfunded-according to estimates tabled before Parliament’s Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs by EC Chainman Badru Kiggundu.
“The EC had planned for Shs 272b for its 2015/16 budget for electoral activities but will only be provided with Shs 202b, leaving the electoral body in dire straits as the clock winds down to 2016”, spokesman Jotham Taremwa said in an interview.
“There is a funding gap of Shs 70b on the General Election activites.If not bridged, the Commission will either have to incur domestic arrears in order to deliver the 2016 elections or postpone the activities, ”indicates the Commission’s policy statement for 2015/16 financial year.
But with no money to bankroll the counting of votes, MPs wondered how the elections will be held, whether the electoral body’s books of accounts are not clean or if there is an attempt to “blackmail” the government.
Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu warned that the unfunded priorities touch on the heart and soul of the election and no election can be held without tallying.
“All the activities you are talking about as unfunded are the core of an election. They say there is no money to pay polling officials—if you are not paying them, how are going to employ them? There is no money for tallying results. What business is this you are doing, if you are saying there is no money for this [tallying results]. Let us just close up? There are no elections where results are not going to be tallied,”Mr Katuntu said.
The Electoral Commission will file a substantive response to Parliament tomorrow [Thursday] but the EC boss Kiggundu insisted there is nothing shady about the funding problems the electoral body is grappling with and the plans to use National ID data to compile a voter’s register.
“These are activities which have to be done and we have been calling for more money and even before and so we have never blackmailed my own government,”Mr Kigundu said.
The EC is in the process of acquiring a multibillion voting system dubbed Real Time Voter Verification System at Shs 100b- and has so far paid Shs 50b for the system it says will help in tackling multiple voting.
Now committee chairperson Stephen Tashobya says this is serious matter which must be addressed, but says there is need to harmonize the figures in the commission’s budget.
Eallier, the Electoral Commission was put on the spot by the MPs over the voters register.
Appearing before the legal and parliamentary affairs committee today, officials led by the EC chairman Eng Badru Kiggundu were tasked by various MPs including Medard Ssegona, Sam Otada and Abdu Katuntu to explain why they abandoned their register and used data from the national ID project.
However in response Eng Kigundu said whatever the committee has done is within the law.
This comes as the commission conducts a voter register update exercise based on data collected under the national ID project. The exercise runs until April 30th 2015.
Story by Benjamin Jumbe