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Govt gets loan for elections

By Steven Turyarugayo

Added 25th January 2020 12:30 PM

Last week, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama and secretary-general Sam Rwakoojo, while appearing before the same committee gave an ultimatum to the Government to avail sh518.9b this financial year or risk having no elections in 2021.

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Last week, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama and secretary-general Sam Rwakoojo, while appearing before the same committee gave an ultimatum to the Government to avail sh518.9b this financial year or risk having no elections in 2021.

ELECTIONS                     FUNDS

Finance ministry officials have broken the ice on how the Government intends to borrow money to finance the 2021 general elections.

On Thursday, state minister for David Bahati and Kenneth Mugambe, the ministry’s director for budget, told the committee on legal and parliamentary affairs in Parliament that they plan to use part of the Euros 600m (sh2.4 trillion) proposed loan from Stanbic Bank to foot the Electoral Commission (EC) budget shortfall of sh518b to conduct the elections.

Last week, the EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama and secretary-general Sam Rwakoojo, while appearing before the same committee gave an ultimatum to the Government to avail sh518.9b this financial year or risk having no elections in 2021.

Bahati’s disclosure took the legislators aback, who wondered how that could be possible, given the heavy debt burden the country is already facing.

“Is it correct for a sovereign government to borrow for the purpose of elections?” Bugwere County Abdu Katuntu asked.

In response, Bahati said the sh2.4 trillion loan requests are currently before Parliament’s committee on the national economy for approval. He explained that the loan is meant for budget support and not only elections as it is being misinterpreted.

The legislators were, however, not convinced by Bahati’s explanation, arguing that it was not logical that the Government opted for domestic borrowing rather than focusing on realigning the domestic expenditure to find the sh518b that the EC requires.

Put on the spot to give a time frame on when the funds will be availed and the certainty of the elections, Bahati sent a message of hope.

“There is no way we cannot have elections. We have to ensure that by April, the resources which they need are provided,” Bahati said.

In the 2020/21 financial year, which is the third and final phase on the 2021 general elections roadmap, the EC also seeks to urgently (before the polls) relocate its office from its present location to Bugolobi at a cost of sh72b.

Mugambe informed the committee how they advised the EC to opt for renting as a short-term measure because there was no money to fund this activity.

MPs were at that point treated to free drama as Byabakama and Mugambe, clashed, with the former accusing the latter of being deceitful on what he was presenting before the committee.

“I am not aware of any agreement we have had with finance to that effect of renting as an option,” Byabakama said.

The current EC headquarters on Jinja Road in Kampala is supposed to be demolished to pave the way for the construction of the Kampala Flyover and the Jinja Express way projects.

Byabakama further told the committee that the Uganda National Roads Authority is to compensate the EC to the tune of sh22b. He wondered why the finance ministry officials are advising them to rent instead of availing the sh22b.

“We are against renting, given the sensitivity of our equipment,” he said.

Jacob Oboth Oboth, the chairperson of the committee, cautioned finance ministry that “the issue of renting is poor planning. They have their sh22b, so give it to them”.

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