Gaps in Uganda’s Political Finance Legal Framework.
Whereas Uganda’s electoral and political party legal framework contains provisions that regulate political party financing, misuse of state resources on campaigns, and voter bribery when it comes to regulating election campaign financing, this framework does not cover the ground properly. For example, there are no provisions to ensure transparency and accountability in election campaign financing. Specifically, when it comes to regulating money in politics, Uganda’s electoral legal framework suffers from the following gaps:
- Disclosure of Campaign Finance Sources: There is no legal provision to regulate election campaign donations (monetary or in-kind) to political parties and candidates. Until now, all campaign finance donations are largely anonymous. There is no legal requirement for mandatory disclosure of campaign finance sources and amounts obtained. This lacuna allows “dirty money” from predicate crimes to be laundered through campaign financing.
- Reporting on Campaign Spending: There is no requirement for political parties and candidates who participated in the elections, to file reports on their campaign spending within a specified period after elections. This allows candidates to spend money on all forms of “dirty” campaign practices including voter bribery using cash and in-kind items. Whereas political parties are required to submit returns to the Electoral Commission, there is no provision in law for specific/mandatory reporting on election campaign spending in a specified period (say 90 days). Equally, there is no provision for candidates to report on their campaign spending.
- Foreign Donations to Candidates: There is no ban on campaign donations from foreign interests to candidates at presidential, parliamentary, and local government levels. This makes Uganda’s electoral process vulnerable to capture by foreign interests.
- Contributions from Business Companies/Corporations: There is no requirement for business companies/corporation to disclose their contributions to political parties and/or candidates for campaigns. This creates a risk of subjecting political parties and candidates to corporate capture as businesses may provide quid pro quo campaign donations particularly targeting public contracts. In some electoral jurisdictions, there is a ban on corporate donations to political parties and candidates.
- Donations from companies with running Government contracts: There is no ban on donations from corporations with government contracts or corporations with partial government ownership, to the incumbent political party and/or its As a consequence, companies with running public contracts make significant campaign contributions to the ruling party and/or its flagbearers, hence creating a conflict of interest which may result into compromising the quality of the contractual service/goods.
- Contribution Limits: There is no limit on the amount of funds a donor can contribute to a political party or candidate during an election. This creates a situation where one wealthy donor can bankroll the entire political party or group of candidates and later use that as a basis to control political decisions or the policy-making process. In the worst-case scenario, this can result in institutional capture or state capture. Contribution limits are intended to mitigate the risk of control and influence on private interests on political and policy decisions.
- Spending Limits: There are no limits on the amount of funds that a political party or candidate can spend on an election. Candidates have leeway to spend as much as they can or want which results into an “arms race” of campaign spending. This is largely the reason why elective politics in Uganda is becoming very expensive and affordable only to the super-rich hence excluding the economically marginalized especially women and youth from participating in elections as candidates. ACFIM reports reveal that big spenders often influence the outcome of elections in most of the constituencies. The downside is that elected leaders are preoccupied with recouping their campaign investment and amassing a sizeable war chest for the next election, rather than representing their constituents.
- Banking system: There are no provisions requiring campaign finance donations to political parties and candidates to go through the formal banking system or other trackable systems. This makes it hard for the electoral management body to monitor campaign financing. With cryptocurrencies now at play, there is a real threat of undermining the principle of transparency and accountability in political financing, which are critical for the democratisation process.
Thus, Legislation to regulate Campaign Financing is necessary for building public trust in electoral processes.