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Finance officials grilled over borrowing to finance 2021 elections

David Bahati and Finance Ministry Director Budget Kenneth Mugambe appearing before Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Minister of State for Planning David Bahati together with the Finance Ministry Director Budget Kenneth Mugambe on Thursday came under criticism over the move to borrow funds to finance activities for the 2021 general elections.

Minister Bahati and Mugambe had appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee with officials from the Electoral Commission (EC).

According to the EC Chairperson, Justice Simon Byabakama, they are in a crisis due to lack of funding amounting to Shillings 518.944 billion for the 2021 elections.

According to Secretary to the EC Sam Rwakoojo, the Commission had planned to have the funding of the electoral activities in phases starting with the financial year 2018/2019 but the required Shillings 153.3 billion was never provided for during the financial year and only Shillings 141 billion released during the current financial year 2019/2020 out of the required 283.7 billion.

He noted that on top of the funding gap this financial year, government has not appropriated money for electoral activities in the 2020/2021 budget framework paper.

Justice Byabakama says that some of the activities that require urgent funding are the relocation of the Commission headquarters, handing of election petitions, printing of ballot papers, dispatch of polling kits, welfare for polling day officials, money for field supervision of polling activities, payment to polling day officials during presidential, parliamentary and local government elections and others.

Kenneth Mugambe the Director Budget noted that government had this financial year 2019/2020 experienced a huge revenue shortfall and that to mitigate it, the Ministry of Finance had late last year presented a domestic loan request before parliament to finance the budget.

The Shillings 2.43 trillion loan proposal was tabled before Parliament in December by Minister of State for Planning David Bahati.

According to the domestic loan request currently before Parliament’s National Economy Committee, government says that out of the 2.43 trillion, Euros 300 million is to be borrowed from Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited and another Euro 300 million from the Trade Development Bank.

Mugambe’s revelation to use part of the borrowed money to finance the country’s election angered Bugweri County MP Abdu Katuntu who wondered why a sovereign country like Uganda should borrow to finance its elections. He said that there was need for government to reorganize its priorities since holding free and fair elections is a key activity that should be prioritized above other funding pressures.

West Budama South MP Jacob Oboth said that elections have a constitutional timeline and that they cannot be postponed. He demanded that the Ministry of Finance comes out clearly and inform the country whether elections will be held or not.

Bahati said that the borrowing was for everything in the budget and not only the election activities. But his submission was objected by Katuntu and Oboth who said that it was disturbing that the electoral activities which are to be implemented have no funds and yet government plans to secure funds from a loan.

Bahati said that the matter of the electoral funding had been discussed at the top government management level assuring MPs that elections will be held well in time.

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