Uganda: Keep Private Sector Money Out of Politics, Govt Asked

Stakeholders have raised concern over the increased financing of politics by the private sector that they said in turn kills the public interest of service delivery.

“The big elephant in the room has been the interplay between private sector and financing of politics in Africa. The private sector has been complaining for some time that when campaign period comes, they are bombarded with requests to support political parties and candidates. Some( political parties) come with arrogance that if they ae not supported, the private sector won’t survive. When we see private businesses supporting political parties and candidates who later win, afterwards they land mega deals and contracts from government and result into shoddy work. Time has come for us to speak about these things,” said Henry Mugizi, the CEO of Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM).

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He was speaking during a symposium on political financing in Uganda organized by the Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM) at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala.

Mugizi said that in Uganda and Africa at large, the private sector plays a big role in influencing politicians who are elected in government positions but said this state of affairs offers a disservice to the citizens and country at large.

“The businessmen get to support politicians because they are assured of getting contracts and deals in government like construction of dams, roads and health centres. They get these contracts in a manner that defies public procurement rules and what they deliver doesn’t provide value for money and is alos not in the interest of the members of the public. We should ensure private sector doesn’t hobnob politicians.”

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He explained that because of this state of affairs, many businesses have collapsed for refusal to adhere to requests to finance politicians and their parties but noted this ought to be changed.

Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG)’s Julius Mukunda Julius says it is very important to regulate financing of politicians by private businesses.

“Most people who get tax exemptions are rich people which means that they have the capacity to finance whoever is giving these exemptions which limits how much money we get as a country,”Mukunda said.

“We have also witnessed that 60% of the corruption and theft in the country’s budget is in the procurement process. It means that rich people can be able to influence and finance those people who are giving contracts so that they get contracts themselves and whether they do shoddy work, nobody is going to ask them. Unless it is regulated, we might end up getting a foreign person financing a political party and take over a country. At the end of the day, for example, if the oil we have been talking about in Bunyoro is taken over by another party that has got its own agenda, they sell all the oil and we remain folding hands.”

Lawyer and political finance expert, Daniel Walyemera insisted that it is important for the public to know the source of money for every political party.

“We must have regulated financing for our political parties. We should know where NRM, FDC, or NUP is getting that money. If for example it is coming from the US Embassy, let them tell us so that we know that if Robert Kyagulanyi is saying certain things, he is possibly being influenced by wherever he got the financing. It will be transparent and everybody will know what is influencing his decision making and then we will take him on because his interests are not in the US but in Uganda,” Walyemera noted.

“You can see examples of dirt money in South America where mafia has taken over some of the decision-making in the government because there is no regulation of that money and how it comes into governance of the country. You have mafia, traffickers, drug dealers who are financing politicians and taking positions. They end up pushing their own agenda.”

The spokesperson of the Kampala City Traders Association(KACITA) Issa Ssekitto said many people have been driven out of business for refusal to bankroll certain politicians.

“It has advantages if you sponsor a politician but it comes on the expense of the citizens. On the other hand it has caused many problems because of favoritism, discrimination, non- payment of taxes and awarding of tenders to incompetent people. Many are audited out of business deliberately. Companies have fallen out of business because of monopoly that is deliberately and politically initiated,” Ssekitto said.

Background

In the past, several politicians, across the board have asked private businessmen to help them bankroll their campaigns and in reward, they are given contracts after the politicians are elected into office.

However, it has also been reported that some businesses have been forcefully closed down for refusal to finance campaigns for some politicians.

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