Institute election financing law

We have successfully concluded this year’s Anti Corruption Day which was marked on December 9, 2020
Transparency International Uganda, Anti Corruption Coalition Uganda, Action Aid International Uganda, Uganda Debt Network and other like-minded CSOs embarked on tasking the Government to account for the various funds that were released during the fight against the locust invasion of January and February, the Covid-19 pandemic that characterized much of the conversations between March and September and the floods that struck parts of the country with Kasese being at the epicenter.

Most of these events were treated as the emergencies they were. However, it looks like we are not moving past the emergency situations fast enough. It is coming to a year and the accountabilities for these emergency situations are yet to be shared with the public. This situation raises a lot of transparency issues and could lend credence to the notion that the emergency route was used even where planning should have been helpful so as to avoid the scrutiny that comes with public procurement.

A number of procurements to do with the response to Covid-19, the procurements for the fight against locusts and a response to the floods that have affected the country, happened, but only a fraction are reported on the Government Procurement Portal several months after the money was spent, diplomats at one of the foreign missions convened a meeting on the video meeting platform, Zoom, and plotted to defraud the country and the duty bearers at the centre of relief food distribution inflated prices.

With the above issues still to be addressed, the country is now in an election period that is highly commercialized just like all previous elections.

It should be noted that Uganda is still a young democracy and a lot of the gains made over the last 30 years, for instance, Uganda has held six general elections with the first being the Constituent Assembly Delegates election of 1994, that led to the 1995 Constitution, could be done away with if the country does not take seriously the issue of election and campaign financing.

Other elections have been the general elections of 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016. There is also a general election expected in 2021 as well. Regular elections have been institutionalized in the politics of Uganda since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution and the eventual return to the multi-party-political dispensation in 2005.

The regularity in these elections over the last 30 years has given an impression that Ugandans have unequivocally accepted the legitimacy of elections as the democratic processes for determining who shall govern the country. However, buying and selling of votes is illegal in Uganda, and punishable under the law.

Over time Uganda’s elections have been highly commercialized as evidenced by reports from the National Democratic Institute and Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) state that on average a contestant for a parliamentary seat will need about sh500m to hold a campaign and this does not guarantee that they will win the election.

Some of these bear a component of money in politics in them. However, enforcement of such provisions is still a big challenge. The Section of the Political Parties and Organisations Act, 2005, that deals with party financing is limited in its ambit and poorly implemented. It is very crucial to enact independent campaign finance laws. This has been done in neighboring countries such as the Tanzania which has the Election Expenses Act, 2010 and the Election Campaign Financing Act, 2013, in Kenya, among others. There is a direct relationship between opaqueness in election financing and corruption.

The 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index, for instance, reveals that a staggering number of countries are showing little to no improvement in tackling corruption. The same report also suggests that reducing big money in politics and promoting inclusive political decision-making are essential to curbing corruption.

To have any chance of curbing corruption, the government must strengthen checks and balances, limit the influence of big money in politics and ensure broad input in political decision-making. Public policies and resources should not be determined by economic power or political influence, but by fair consultation and impartial budget allocation. The 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index showed that corruption is more pervasive in countries where big money can flow freely into electoral campaigns and where governments listen only to the voices of wealthy or well-connected individuals.

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