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ACFIM TALKS: The Cost of Politics in Uganda

Discussions from the eighth episode of ACFIM Talks, ACFIM’s weekly Virtual studio revealed that politicians in Uganda do not only spend to win elections but also spend up to 30 million UGX (8,108 USD) to maintain office. Many candidates revealed that even when they win elections, they continue to invest their personal resources to maintain office.

These interesting findings are from a recently published report dubbed the “Impact of the Cost of Politics on Inclusive participation in Uganda” by Public Policy Institute (PPI) in partnership with the Netherlands Institute for Multi-Party Democracy (NIMD) and Westminister Foundation for democracy (WFD).

The topic of discussion for the virtual talk show was the Cost of Politics in Uganda with Emmanuel Kitamirike, co-founder and Executive Director PPI as a guest panellist. He gave a snippet of the above-mentioned report which disclosed that in 2016, a member of parliament used an estimate of 465 million UGX ($125,676) and District chairpersons 237million UGX ($64,054).

ACFIM has also conducted a similar study on pre-campaign spending and preliminary findings from this report are pointing to high expenditure come 2021. “The cost of politics in Uganda is really shooting through the roof and for anybody contesting for the highest office in the land they will require a minimum of 1 billion UGX (270,270 USD).” Emmanuel explained. This raises questions on outcomes and participation. He admitted that Uganda faces a problem in campaign financing and this affects electoral democracy.

On the question of why the cost of politics is going up, Emmanuel stated that candidates heavily spent on social contributions at the community level including burials, weddings, school fees. They also spend on development projects building schools, infrastructure, roads and bridges in the constituency.

The moderator, Felix Kafuuma, Programs Manger ACFIM, added that the office of a member of parliament had been redefined from legislation to direct social service provision. Many constituencies suffer from service delivery gaps because of an absent state leaving politicians to step in not necessarily to address the gap but to ride on it to publicise their candidature and win the hearts of the voters so they can get to parliament and recover the money.

However, concerns on where the outrageous amounts of money candidates use come from and where it goes where raised. Candidates did not fully disclose where the money comes from and gave generic answers like financial support from political parties, personal income, and friends and relatives.

High costs of politics have excluded women and youth who do not have access to resources to equally compete as well as fuelled political corruption by leaders seeking to snip away money for their selfish interests. These high costs have also affected the quality of leadership because money has excluded credible leaders who can offer good leadership.

Felix suggested that in order to address the problem of commercialised politics, it’s essential to make politics less lucrative since it has attracted many people who are simply job seeking yet leadership should be a service. There is also need to reduce on the high benefits and remuneration especially for the MP’s.  

It is consequently irrefutable that Uganda needs an independent elaborative law to regulate campaign spending. ACFIM has for long been pushing for a Campaign Finance law and if enacted, it will embed provisions of disclosure of campaign funding, put a limit on spending and ensure transparency. This will check money from corrupt proceeds, illicit financing, and wrong elements of the state.

To watch this episode of ACFIM Talks click this link

Do not miss out on this week’s episode of ACFIM talks where we will be discussing “The cost of being a female politician in Uganda.” Join Flavia Nabagabe, candidate woman MP Kassanda district, and Babirye Sarah, Youth Representative for Central Region this Friday, 11th from 11:00 pm to 12:00 noon E.A.T to catch the live stream for this interesting discussion on all our social media platforms.

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