The newly created electoral areas have placed a budgetary demand of an additional Shs 16 billion on the Electoral Commission (EC), Justice Simon Byabakama, the commission chairman has said.
Addressing journalists at the EC headquarters on Friday, Byabakama said that organizing elections in the newly created cities, municipalities, town councils and sub-counties require more money than what had been budgeted for.
Previously, the EC had asked for Shs 796 billion to conduct the 2021 elections but their budget was slashed to about Shs 640 billion. This was before the country suffered disruptions caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) whose prevention measures require a lot of sanitary facilities.
To put in place facilities for the prevention of the spread of Covid-19, the EC indicated that it will need Shs 54.6 billion that will go to the buying of hand sanitizers, masks, water and soap among others that will be used to wash hands by people during the electoral cycle.
Last month, Parliament approved the creation of 46 new constituencies, 10 new cities; one new district and five Parliamentary seats for older persons. Government also created another 168 new town councils or sub-counties which all require the Electoral Commission to organize elections there.
“For purposes of absorbing the above new creations into the general elections 2020/2021, the Electoral Commission has had to make revisions to the electoral roadmap to provide for the demarcation of Local government electoral areas and reorganization of polling stations in the affected parishes or wards in the 168 new town councils and sub counties located in various parts of Uganda,” said Byabakama.
He added that now the nominations of candidates for local government council elections has changed from the earlier dates of between September 7-17 to September 21 – October 1/
Meanwhile, Byabakama has used today’s address to assail politicians who have started violating the Standard Operating Procedures that the ministry of Health and the commission itself issued in regards to public campaigns and procession. He said that the Commission he leads strongly condemns this kind of conduct which he said is putting the lives of Ugandans at the risk of contracting COVID-19.
In the previous weeks, members of the National Resistance Movement such as Evelyn Anite, the state minister for privatization, Ephraim Kamuntu, the Justice and Constitutional Affairs minister, Jane Ruth Aceng, the health minister among others were videotaped conducting mass campaigns or processions without regard to social distance or using masks.
“As guided, candidates may organize or hold regulated campaign meetings. Conveners of such meetings and venue owners must ensure that public health safety measures and guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19 are observed. Hence we advise that such meeting venues should be preferably outdoor to enable the observance of the social distancing of at least two meters apart for the persons attending the meeting or campaigns,” said Byabakama.
He however added that the fact that they allowed the police to ensure that political players are compliant with the guidelines is not a carte blanche for them to allow or disallow political meetings. He implored political players to always inform them whenever they face obstacles from the police.
Last week Presidential hopeful, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu was stopped from speaking at a radio station in Mbale with the police citing the lack of clearance from the Electoral Commission as the reason for stopping him.