Members of Parliament on the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee have trashed government proposal to compel candidates to declare their source of funding during the election period, describing it (the proposal) as redundant.
The lawmakers argue that the proposal won’t cure the commercialisation of Uganda’s politics.
The Attorney General, William Byaruhanga in July tabled five proposed amendments including; The Presidential Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Electoral Commission (Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Political Parties and Organisation (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Parliamentary Elections (Amendment) Bill and the Local Government (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
In one of the proposals, Government is seeking to tackle campaign financing, with the bill seeking to bar a candidate or candidate’s agent from obtaining, soliciting or receiving any financial or other assistance from any foreign Government institution, body or person which or who has demonstrated an intention to overthrow the lawfully established Government of Uganda or to endanger the security of Uganda
Aspirants are also barred from obtaining, soliciting or receiving any financial or other assistance from an organisation which has been declared a terrorist organisation under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2002.
A presidential candidate caught with illicit money or other assistance obtained by a candidate contrary to the provision shall be forfeited to the State by order of the court convicting a person while parliamentary candidates or their agents face jail of five years or pay fine not exceeding one hundred and twenty currency points equal to Shs2.4M.
When the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Kahinda Otafiire and Deputy Attorney General Mwesigwa Rukutana presented the bill before the Committee on Tuesday, a number of MPs rejected the proposal compelling candidates to declare their sources of income.
Kampala Central MP, Muhammad Nsereko said that the regulation of commercialisation of politics can be simple which involves putting in place punitive measures which are already in place through curbing bribing.
“Commercialisation of politics doesn’t mean that somebody has to disclose the source of their funding because some people take unfair advantage, the moment you disclose, they attack such individuals and then you curtail the faith in which this was brought,” Nsereko said.
He added: “Already this has been solved by the law where you use bribery, then your election can cancelled, that was the rationale, to stop commercialization that you exchange a vote for money. I find this redundant, you already declared to the IGG your source of funding. The farmer of this bill thought that commercialisation was meant to mean something different from something there is.”
Mitooma Woman MP, Jovah Kamateeka said the proposal could be used to unfairly treat candidates.
“Are we being realistic to say that a candidate should sit down and make a budget and know what they are going to spend. My fear is that it will be used selectively to unfairly penalise some candidates while others run free,” she said.
Markson Oboth, Chairperson of the Legal Committee asked Rukutana to address concerns of lawmakers pointing out that the provision is silent on the amount.
“It creates an obligation for you to declare, what is the rationale? What are you trying to achieve as Government? Have you got any problem before? You may find your campaign blocked in the middle of the campaign because someone doesn’t like you.”
In response, Rukutana said: “We have institutions which do financial oversight, if you declare money which is outside your means then the appropriate agencies can start investigating your source of funding.”
He added that the Committee that Government was looking at putting in place laws to guard MPs from their hefty financial obligations from voters.
“We have been thinking of putting strict laws to limit not only during elections but donations. We appreciate the fact that MPs are really burdened with weddings, schools fees, we can begin here by enacting a law that regulates these activities,” he said, adding:
“This law we are making is in addition to existing provisions. That return must include the figure and the donor. Implementation is another thing, let us look at the law, perfect it and implementation will be another thing.”
Aston Kajara, the Mwenge South MP was among the few MPs to back the regulation pointing out that in all elections Uganda has had, inflation has gone up which means so much money has come into the economy that people hadn’t planned for.
He added that in order not to destroy the economy; government needs to regulate financing of elections especially sources of funding.