Commercialisation has turned politics into an expensive game. It’s no longer a battle for the genius leaders but profit oriented minded men and women. And electorates have embraced the “no money no vote mentality.”
Candidates contesting for leadership positions are left with no escape route other than splashing monies anticipating to fix losses after occupying political offices. Uganda is not an exception. The just concluded presidential and parliamentary elections vindicates my argument.
A study conducted by Alliance for Campaign Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), a loose coalition of civil society organisations advocating transparency in financing political parties and election campaigns in late January disclosed that Yoweri Museveni has spent Shs27 billion. Amama Mbabazi had Shs1.3b while Dr Kizza Besigye had Shs976m.
To understand campaign financing, it’s important to look at National Resistance Movement (NRM) and its mysterious campaign financing structures. Since 1996 presidential elections, the party has been disbursing billions of money in a bid to win elections both at presidential and parliamentary level yet it has no business from which it gets the money.
Certainly, NRM amass financial donations from business tycoons in town who in turn get favours from the president. For instance their businesses are allowed to operate with impunity. In a comment published in the Daily Monitor on January 25th, president Museveni stated that “big contributors carried the burden” of financing NRM campaigns. He acknowledged that “small contributions from a large number of people” can bring “more money than a few big contributors.”
Roger Tangri and Andrew Mwenda in their book The Politics of Elite Corruption in Africa: Uganda in Comparative African Perspective (2013) refers to a May 2002 commission of inquiry set up to investigate corruption in Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). The commission found out that companies owned by Ugandan Asian tycoons escaped payment of taxes amounting to more UGS 30billion as result of solicitation made on their behalf politicians.
The company proprietors were financially behind president Museveni during the 1996 and 2001 presidential elections. If not these businessmen-politically connected, who are the big contributors that carried the burden of financing NRM campaigns? I presume, the big contributors will be fraudulently rewarded with tax waivers, free land, cheap credit, subsidies, protective tariffs and government contracts by the executive.
This time round, campaign for NRM Member of Parliament candidates were expensive than in previous elections due to double campaigning. Before general campaigns, candidates spent heavily during the bloody NRM primaries. I attended a fundraising of cabinet minister who was seeking 1billion just three weeks to the election to bolster his campaigns. The minister was only able to collect less than 10 percent of the money he wanted. The question is; how did he raise the other 90 percent and how will he recover from the losses?
Also, I performed organisational work for an NRM leaning independent candidate who spent more than 500 million in the general campaigns. Luckily, she won. But how is she going to recover from the financial injuries?
These politicians will be appointed to head government ministries and agencies that are charge of delivering goods and services to the public. Due information asymmetrical, most of these politicians will be pocketing portions of funds meant to finance public services and they will be procuring low poor quality services after receiving money for high quality services.
Expecting legislators to hold the executive accountable in the tenth parliament is like imagining that “a priest planning to get married.” Parliament attempt to confront corruption has always been hampered by the executive arm. Due losses incurred during campaigns, legislators will be susceptible to financial inducements.
Corruption in the 10th parliament! Journalists should ready to tell the story.