Ugandan taxpayers to pay the cost of Electoral Commission’s negligence

Ugandan taxpayers to pay the cost of Electoral Commission’s negligence

Former MP, Bukimbiri County, Kisoro district- Eddie Kwizera-Wagahungu. The Bukimbiri county election was annuled last week by the Court of Appeal. (Photo Courtesy of The Independent)

The court of appeal in Kampala on Monday, 06 June 2022 canceled the elections of Member of Parliament, Kwizera Eddie Wagahungu of Bukimbiri County, Kisoro district. The court ordered Electoral Commission to organize a fresh election and pay costs to the petitioner. This is going to cost colossal financial implications on tax payer’s money over a blatant error that may be described as a result of the negligence of the Electoral Commission.

SecretsKnown has established that the cost of organizing a by-election by Electoral Commission on direct seat is UGX 300 million ($79,896) while District Woman Representative is estimated to be UGX 500 million ($133,160). This is an enormous cost burden on the taxpayer.          

The annulment of the election of Eddie Kwizera Wagahungu was on grounds of non-compliance to provisions of the Parliamentary Elections Act 2005. The Electoral Commission on polling day wrongly juxtaposed names against the photos of four candidates on ballot papers used on the polling date. The photos, party name, and party or independent candidate symbol were not sufficient for treating the ballot paper as valid in light of the apparent material defect of having the wrong names against the photo.

Such incidences and scenarios disparage the competence and public confidence in an institution mandated to guarantee Uganda’s nascent democracy. SecretsKnown highly condemns such recklessness in the strongest possible terms.

Under Article 61 of the constitution of the republic of Uganda, the Electoral Commission as a democratic institution is premised to ensure regular, free, and fair elections. Section 12(1) (b) of the Electoral Commission Act mandates the commission to design, print, distribute and control the use of ballot papers. Section 18 (2) provides for Electoral Commission to maintain a voters register and voters roll for each constituency.

It further provides that the voter roll shall be maintained for each polling station within the constituency. Under section 6 (1) (b) of the parliamentary elections Act, the returning officer is to be furnished with the voter roll for each polling station. SecretsKnown wonders how such oversight of juxtaposing names and photos on the ballot paper by the returning officer at Electoral Commission could occur.

An error as clear as this should not have gone unnoticed during the preparation of ballot papers. It is imperative to note that the petitioner, by then-candidate Owebeyi James, notified the Electoral Commission of the inaccuracy on polling day but the Commission failed to act promptly. This is perhaps what disquiets Uganda’s taxpayers the most.

SecretsKnown wishes to note that Electoral Commission on instances of defect on ballot papers, under section 50 (1) of Electoral Commission Act is mandated to call off the election. The failure of the commission to call off the election created the uneven ground for candidates in Bukimbiri constituency and did not grant a free and fair election as expected of the commission.  Beyond the unfairness of the election to the candidates, it is going to cost taxpayers huge sums of money to organize fresh elections and pay costs to the petitioners.

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