ZEC $28 million budget under the spotlight

The Election Resource Centre (ERC), a local non-profit watchdog, has queried the high election costs that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Rita Makarau announced recently.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson, Rita Makarau.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson, Rita Makarau.

Speaking at a recent press conference, Makarau said $2 million per constituency was needed to run 14 by-elections slated for June 10. The seats in those constituencies were declared vacant after the speaker of parliament, Jacob Mudenda, expelled 21 legislators aligned to the MDC Renewal Team on the grounds that they had joined a separate party and could therefore not continue holding the position they had won on an MDC-T ticket.

In a new report, ERC noted that the $28 million budget that Makarau announced implied that the election cost per voter had jumped by close to 300 percent in less than two years. This despite the fact that inflation remains very low in Zimbabwe after the introduction of a multi-currency in 2009 following years of hyperinflation.

An examination of comparative figures for the region shows that Zimbabwe’s costs are higher by far than any other SADC country. The per capita cost in Botswana is $27,9 while in Malawi it is $2,1. In Zimbabwe the cheapest constituency, Dangamvura-Chikanga, cost $50 while the most expensive, Mbizo in Kwekwe, cost $95.

In the 2013 general elections, the per capita average cost of the polls was $22, but if calculations are made based on Makarau’s new figure, that would jump to an average of $70 during the by-elections. The March 27 by-elections in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe and Mount Darwin West cost an average of $55.50 per capita.

ERC noted that the total cost of running a national general election would jump to $420 million, up from $132,4 million in 2013.

According to the centre, if divided by total 210 constituencies, it means that $628,571 was used per constituency in 2013, almost half of what ZEC is now demanding.

“The ERC implores ZEC to share more details on how they are allocating costs. Zimbabweans remain in the dark as to how the election authorities allocate their costs and indeed what priorities they focus on.

“How it becomes more expensive to run a house of assembly election alone as compared to the harmonized election remains mysterious. At the rate at which the country is going into by-elections, are the costs for administering elections reasonable and sustainable to the national fiscus?” queried ERC.

Makarau’s phone went unanswered on numerous attempts but she has not given a breakdown of the budget.

Critics are worried that the big election budget that Makarau gave could reflect corrupt tendencies among ZEC board members and officers to divert some of the money to personal use or to claim unnecessary allowances.

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