By Umaru Kashaka
THE chairperson of the Electoral Commission (EC) Dr. Badru Kiggundu has warned of the dire consequences ahead of 2016 general elections as he appealed to legislators and government to critically address the issues dogging his commission including staff salaries.
Kiggundu identified the issues as pressure to fund the implementation of second year activities of the forthcoming general polls roadmap in a phased manner, pressure to remunerate staff appropriately, and redesigning of election materials to cater for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs).
Appearing before the legal and parliamentary affairs committee over 2014/15 ministerial policy statement of EC, he noted that the issues have long term implications for democratic advancement in the country.
“Salaries for our technical staff have remained stagnant since 1999. This has continued to erode the morale of staff. Through this committee, I appeal to Government for special consideration regarding this dire disparity because increased adjustments were made for all other public servants,” he told the committee chaired by the Kajara County MP Stephen Tashobya.
He explained that they had proposed sh16.5b as the wage bill for this financial year, but only sh8.2b was provided in the medium term expenditure framework, leaving a shortfall of sh8.2b.
“This has put us in a danger of losing our capable and experienced staff and we may not conduct free and fair elections. The commission may not also be able to attract and maintain competent personnel in order to deliver its mandate because of this. In the recent salary revision, increment was only accorded to specified officers and the technical staff was not considered,” Kiggundu stressed.
The EC’s director of operations Leonard Mulekwa explained that failure to conduct elections of councils and committees for Youth, PWDs and Older Persons in this financial year means that the next parliament and local government councils shall not be fully constituted.
“This is since these councils and committees form electoral colleges for election of Members of Parliamentary and Councillors representing these special interest groups in parliament and local government councils due between February 12 and March 13, 2016, Mulekwa asserted.
He noted that field activities for presidential, general parliamentary and local government council elections run from September 2015 to March 2016.
“This period is crowded in the field to permit election activities of Youth, PWDs and older Persons committee to run concurrently and smoothly. Therefore it is logistically prudent to complete these elections before commencing on the presidential and other polls,” he stated.
The officials said they require sh243b as opposed to the provided sh150b to smoothly run its planned activities that also include the cost of procuring the Voter Verification System (sh100b).
“We project to have 30,000 polling stations during 2016 elections and the costs of each voter verification system to be deployed per polling station is approximately $1,000 (about 2.6m) excluding logistics, training, hire of expertise and other concurrent costs,” Kiggundu explained.
The committee took exception to the failure by the Government to implement its recommendations that included enhancing the salary of EC staff.
“I wonder why Government does not increase salaries of EC staff. It’s undermining the importance of this important body. We are having our priorities wrong,” Tashobya said.
Other MPs Alex Ndezi (PWDs Central), Joseph Balikuddembe (Busiro South) and Mitooma Woman MP Jovah Kamateeka demanded that committee summons the finance ministry to explain why EC is inadequately funded.
“I’m very worried. The Constitution is clear that adequate resources should be availed to EC to do its work, but this is not the case. The remuneration of its staff is poor. How do you expect a hungry dog to take care of the meat?” Ndezi wondered.
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