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Friday,June 05,2020 00:56 AM

Finance asks EC to cut election budget

By Nicholas Wassajja

Added 29th January 2020 07:06 AM

The EC in 2018 released its road map to 2021 in which they estimated that elections from the President to that of the local council would cost an estimated sh868b.

Finance asks EC to cut election budget

The EC in 2018 released its road map to 2021 in which they estimated that elections from the President to that of the local council would cost an estimated sh868b.

PHOTO: Finance minister, Matia Kasaija

The finance minister, Matia Kasaija, has instructed the Electoral Commission (EC) to cut the budget estimate for the 2021 general elections because the Government is financially constrained.

"It is a given that we shall have elections, but today morning I met the EC officials together with other stakeholders and we agreed that because of financial constraints, they (EC) will go back with the ministry technical team and try to reduce the budget," Kasaija said.

Appearing before the legal and parliamentary affairs committee, Kasaija said he had directed EC to cut its budget and come up with a new expenditure estimate before Friday.

Early this month, the EC chairman, Justice Simon Byabakama, told the committee that the available money was enough to only facilitate implementation of the electoral road map up to presidential nominations, yet the Government was reluctant to release more money.

This prompted the committee to summon the finance ministry. However, the state minister for planning, David Bahati, said they were planning to use part of the euros 600m (sh2.4 trillion) borrowed from Stanbic Bank to cover the EC budget shortfall of sh518b for the elections.

The EC in 2018 released its road map to 2021 in which they estimated that elections from the President to that of the local council would cost an estimated sh868b.

The Constitution empowers Ugandans to choose how they should be governed and by who, through free and fair elections.

Byabakama said despite the challenges faced by the EC, they have agreed with the finance ministry to review the elections budget.

"We shall look at the budget and see what to cut. It is challenging, but it is the only way we have on the table," Byabakama said.

According to the road map, polling for presidential, general parliamentary and local government councils shall be between January 10 and February 8, 2021 which sets a benchmark for all other electoral activities.

Nominations for local government councils are expected in July while those for parliamentary and presidential candidates shall be in August.

Kasija's decision did not, however, go down well with some lawmakers who said cutting the budget puts the credibility of the 2021 general election in jeopardy.

"It is as if the minister is saying that without cutting the budget, the Government will not fund the elections. In the national budget framework paper, the budgets for all other sectors have been slashed, but there is no indication of where this money is going.

"Why doesn't the ministry use that money to fill the gaps in priority areas such as elections," Kalungu West MP Joseph Ssewungu said.

The Gomba West MP, Robina Rwakoojo, wondered why the Government did not plan early enough on how it will raise resources for the election budget, yet the EC released its road map, including estimated costs almost a year ago.

Last year, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) revealed that by the first half of the current financial year, they had registered a shortfall of sh500b in revenue collections which Kasaija says affects the funding of priority areas such as elections.

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