The Ministry of Finance has confirmed it is yet to secure funding for the 2021 General Elections, further affirming fears recently reported by the Electoral Commission that the much-awaited process could end in a fiasco.
Officials from the Ministry of Finance today informed the Legal Committee of Parliament that government is yet to secure the funds required due to a budget shortfall the economy suffered this financial year, and it is considering acquiring a loan to mitigate an impending crisis.
The officials from finance appeared before the committee alongside their counterparts from the Electoral Commission to table a response following EC Chairperson Justice Simon Byabakama’s statements that the prospects of the 2021 elections hang in balance due to failure by government to provide the necessary funding in time.
In the same meeting, Justice Simon Byabakama reiterated the same appeal, and called for an urgent intervention to avert what he called a crisis. He said the funds available can only facilitate the process up to nominations, but funds for printing ballots, and other election-related materials have not been provided.
Byabakama said the commission is faced with a financial challenge to the tune of UGX 518.94BN, and if not addressed before July 2020, it may adversely affect the smooth conduct of elections in 2021.
The funds are also required to cater for staff wage enhancement, hiring of new staff in 23 newly created districts, pay domestic arrears, and facilitate relocation of EC headquarters.
While the finance ministry committed itself on provision of funds during this period, the Electoral Commission raised more urgent concerns that may not wait. The officials say EC is expected to immediately vacate the current Commission headquarters to pave way for the ongoing Kampala Flyover project, and are yet to secure the UGX 72BN required to procure a building to house the Commission offices.
To make matters worse, the ministry of finance and the Electoral Commission are yet to agree on way forward, in the short run, as a potential source of funding to cover the total amount required is sought.
Kenneth Mugambe, the Director Budget at MOF told legislators that government is planning to borrow 600 million Euros to cater for the shortfalls in the budget.
While the ministry propose to provide funds to accommodate the Commission in rented premises as a stop gap pending acquisition of a permanent home, EC says shifting at this material time with a sensitive national process going on is very risky. Justice Byabakama proposes the most practical time to relocate is October or November 2021, way after the elections have been concluded.
Justice Byabakama also says dismantling, relocating, and reinstalling sensitive and delicate equipment of EC requires more time, and the process might endanger the longevity and safety of the equipment. He said the relocation process takes between 3 to 6 months yet the on-going activities at the Commission requires the system running 24 hours.
However, according to the project contractual terms agreed between Uganda National Roads Authority and JICA the financier of the project, the Commission is expected to vacate by June 2020, and failure to vacate will cost UNRA a whopping 300 million shillings per day, putting government between a rock and a very hard place.