The 2020/21 election exercise is set to cost the taxpayer about Shs 1.5tn, a high ranking Electoral Commission official said Tuesday, underscoring the growing cost of democracy.
“The total cost of the general elections including Administrative units (LC 1 & II) and Women Councils and committees is Shs 868bn,” said the Commission’s Secretary, Sam Rwakoojo.
“This does not include the cost of implementing the plan which includes the wage bill, general finance and administration not to mention the capital development and acquisition of other capital assets including relocation of the Electoral Commission headquarters,” he added.
Rwakoojo spoke today Tuesday at the launch of the Strategic Plan and Roadmap for the 2020/21 general elections at Hotel Africana on Tuesday.
According to the summary of the roadmap, “the cost of the strategic plan, including the 2020/21 general elections is estimated at Shs 1.tn.”
The breakdown of the figures shows EC will spend Shs 812bn on presidential and general parliamentary and local government council elections; Shs 55bn on administrative units (LC 1 & II) and Women council committees; Shs 219 on the wage bill; Shs 414 on general finance and administration and capital development hence the total sum of Shs 1.5tn.
Rwakoojo said the strategic plan has been “adopted as a project to facilitate sound allocation of resources – human, financial and materials to enable EC execute its constitutional mandate efficiently and effectively.”
Explaining the rise in the cost of elections in Uganda, Rwakoojo said the administrative units and the voting population have increased in the last five years.
For example the number of districts will increase to 141 from 112 and municipalities to 80 from 39.
Sub counties will rise to 2,000 from 1,398 and polling stations to 35,000 from 28,000.
The number of registered voters will be 19 million from 15 million, implying the need to increase ballot materials, polling agents and voter education.
Rwakoojo said from experience “the main challenge in implanting the previous plan was perpetual underfunding of the recurrent budget,” adding, “whereas government has continued to create new administrative units and local governments provision of the recurrent budget has not grown proportionally.”
He further said “each district created requires Shs 512m to be operationalized.”
A huge public debate has been raging on the rationale of creating new administrative bodies which continue to overburden the taxpayer.
Recent research by lawmakers showed the increase in the number of local governments does not necessarily lead to delivery of public services.
But Rwakoojo expressed hope that “government will be able to support the Commission with funds to address the challenges as indicated in the detailed plan.”
Observer speak out
Crispin Kaheru, Coordinator, CCEDU says the plan is quite costly – Shs 868 billion compared to about Shs 500 billion in 2016.
“This is quite a cost especially for a struggling economy. Countries across the globe are struggling to reduce costs of elections through integrating effective technology, introducing laws to curb election expenditure and shifting from the traditional geographical representation to interest group representation,” said Kaheru.
“The plan imposes a heavy burden on the country’s resources with little safeguards to guarantee cleaner and credible elections come 2021,” he added.
However, Rwakoojo said the cost drivers in the strategic plan include continuous improvements in the electoral process; comprehensive voter education and stakeholder sensitization; inclusion of the Supreme Court recommendations and price changes and exchange rate fluctuations.
On his part, Kaheru said technically, the roadmap offers a clear sense of direction to the next general election and sets the ground for citizen participation.
“The challenge, as is always is never about the plans, the policies that we have as a country, but rather the implementation of the ideas in those good documents,” he observed.
Addressing the fully-packed hall, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda pledged government support for “the interventions you (EC) have proposed to strengthen good electoral practices and guard our (electoral) processes from potential abuse.”
He said Government is committed to provide funds for the various activities in a timely manner.
“Government shall further take necessary measures to address any areas in the electoral laws that require review and/or amendment,” he added, in response to queries on implementation of the Supreme Court recommendations.