NAIROBI (HAN) February 6, 2016 – Public Diplomacy and Regional Stability Initiatives News. Inadequate funding and political interference are among the factors hampering credible elections across countries in East Africa.
The five East African Community partners — Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda — experience hurdles in financing their electoral bodies, mainly due to bureaucratic delays that result in late disbursement.
In Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has complained that it is always underfunded, and is now pushing for the establishment of the IEBC Fund to boost its independence and avoid recurrent pleading for funds when elections are around the corner.
According to the IEBC chief executive officer, Ezra Chiloba, the Fund as provided for in Section 18 of the IEBC Act, would introduce stability and predictability into electoral financing, create opportunities for receiving funding from other sources, ensure greater accountability in elections funding and make the Commission truly independent.
“We are now planning on using the electoral cycle that moves us away from thinking of elections as an event but a process that starts immediately after an election,” said Mr Chiloba. “If this is the case, adequate resources must allocated before, during and after the election.”
IEBC received only $4.8 million in this year’s budget despite requesting $19 million. The commission needs another $19 million for voter registration alone.
As Uganda goes to the elections on February 18, the Electoral Commission led by Dr Badru Kiggundu is facing the challenge of proving that it is not working with the ruling party at the expense of the opposition, following concerns over the credibility of the voter register and the documents for identifying voters.
The EC is largely funded by the government, but the money is often disbursed late, leading to delayed procurement of critical voting equipment.
A few strategic projects such as the online voter database are financed by some donors like the US Agency for International Development and UK’s Department for International Development.
There have been campaigns by civil society for the amendment of electoral laws to prevent parliament from unnecessarily reducing the EC’s budget, which in most cases affects the latter‘s ability to properly deliver on elections.
In the 2013/14 budget, the EC proposed a $19 million budget, but only $2 million was approved by parliament. The EC is funded under the Medium Term Expenditure Framework that provides for quarterly disbursements and expenditure ceilings.
In Burundi, the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) lacked independence in the disputed 2015 elections as the commissioners are appointed by the president even as opposition were pushing for a competitive recruitment process for the commissioners.
In the run-up to the elections, CENI’s vice chair and the director of finance and administration fled the country to neighbouring Rwanda and later resigned due to political uncertainties that followed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term.
Belgium and Netherlands suspended funding for the elections in protest over the third term, forcing the government to raise $28 million internally for elections expenditure.
CENI had budgeted for $60 million for the 2015 elections and the government had provided for $43 million in the budget only to divert $22 million to other institutions after donors suspended aid to the country. The basket fund that was set up by the government for citizens to contribute raised $967,000.
Only Tanzania has not had major hitches with election funding, but there have been attempts to amend the electoral laws in the yet to be passed draft constitution to improve the funding of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).
The NEC funding depends on the goodwill of the government, which can therefore easily interfere with the commission’s capacity to carry out its duties in a timely manner and also render it susceptible to bureaucratic manipulation.
According to NEC spokesman Clarence Nanyaro, the October elections cost the government $125 million. According to the 1977 electoral laws that established the NEC, the seven commissioners are appointed by the president for a period of five years, which is renewable.
In Kenya’s case, Mr Chiloba says that since the commission has shared its plans in advance, it is hoping that parliament will identify with those priorities and allocate adequate resources in time for next year’s elections.
“For special projects like by-elections and referenda, we must always make a fresh budgetary request since they fall outside the financial year approved estimates. This has its challenges and could be overcome if the IEBC Fund is operationalised,” said Mr Chiloba.
The commission still requires $11 million to pay bills accrued from the 2013 elections, $234,000 to verify signatures collected by Okoa Kenya Referendum campaign, $557,000 to repair vehicles, $57,000 to recruit new staff in readiness for the next elections, $96,000 for regional offices and $2.9 million for mortgage and car loans for staff.
Development partners such as the European Union have also been providing technical support to IEBC through the United Nations Development Programme to cater for voter registration and civic education.