Legislators have rejected a proposal by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to cut the Electoral Commission’s (EC) budget for the 2021 general elections.
The Minister of Finance, Hon Matia Kasaija told MPs on the Committee on Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on January 28, 2020, that the EC’s budget for the elections will be reviewed due to constraints in the treasury.
The Minister was appearing before the committee to respond to concerns raised by the EC over a funding shortfall amounting to shs518 billion to conduct all the electoral activities in 2021.
“I held a meeting with the EC and all stakeholders in the electioneering process today and we agreed that all agencies should review their budgets and look for areas that could be subjected to cuts. We shall return on Friday with a final figure,” he said.
He also allayed fears that elections will not be held saying that reports that there are no funds to conduct elections are false.
“Police, EC and NIRA will have funds to conduct free and fair elections,” he said.
The EC chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama said that there are many difficulties faced if there is no adequate funding for the entire elections road map.
“It was recognised that the EC looks at the budget and identifies areas where cuts will be made. It is a difficult task but we shall try what we can,” he said.
Lawmakers, however, accused the minister of intimidating the EC chairperson, forcing him to accept the proposal to review the budget of the electoral body.
Hon. Jovah Kamateka (NRM, Mitooma district) questioned the proposal to cut the budget of the EC and yet the budget process is ongoing.
“How can we talk of budget cuts when we are in the budget process? Let us just appropriate funds for elections,” she said.
Opposition Chief Whip, Hon. Ssemujju Nganda warned that failure to appropriate adequate funds for elections will expose the EC to the challenges they faced in the last election where materials were delivered late.
“Budget cuts will push the EC against the wall forcing them to organise any kind of elections not free and fair elections,” he said.
Hon. Robinah Rwakoojo (NRM, Gomba West ) said that there is no justification for failure to fund all electoral activities because the Ministry has known about the budget for five years.
“Every aspect of the election road map is important. This budget should not be cut. If the Minister of Finance also wants to come back to Parliament as an MP, please make the process smooth for all,” she said.
The Committee chairperson, Hon Oboth Oboth directed the minister to present the final figures agreed with the EC on Friday, 31 January 2020 for further scrutiny.