Campaigns could cost Sh36 billion

By Jacob Ng’etich

KENYA: Big budget: Questions linger on sources of funding to political parties ahead of coming polls billed as most expensive in Kenya’s political history

Two months to the General Election, Kenya prepares for the battle of the titans in what is billed as the most expensive poll in the country’s history.

As pre-poll coalitions enter the decisive moment, economist and political analysts say billion of shillings will be spent in campaigns this year.

Unlike before when Kenyans voted for three aspirants, this time it will be six categories of seats. The voter will be required to pick president, senator, governor, MP, women representative and county representative.

Analysts say the stakes will be high given the International Criminal Court factor and the fact that the race will be a do-or-die for some candidates.

For Prime Minister Raila Odinga, this election is a defining moment since at 67, age is not on his side to make another attempt in 2017, while Deputy Prime Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and his running mate William Ruto will seek to have the election as a referendum against their cases at The Hague.

A previous study by Coalition for Accountable Political Financing (CAPF) estimated that in 2007, the two front-runners – Mwai Kibaki and Raila – spent Sh7 billion of traceable amounts on their presidential campaigns.

Ken Masime, Director of Centre for Governance and Development estimates that in this election, the main presidential candidates’ campaigns will cost between Sh10 billion and Sh20 billion each.

“This campaign has high stakes and the amount of money will be enormous,” said Masime.

Mwalimu Mati, Mars Group Executive Director says the amount was not inclusive of the financial support given to governors, senators and MPs and other candidates to make a coalition’s victory resounding.

 “The coalitions will require majorities in Parliament and Senate, and control on the counties by winning more gubernatorial seats,” said Mati.

That means therefore that the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) and Jubilee coalition will have to spend between Sh20 billion and Sh30 billion on their presidential bids combined.

They will also be expected to finance campaigns for other seats given that a President without a majority will be a disaster in the next government where the House will have to pass most of the Executive appointments.

Roads Minister Franklin Bett says campaigns in Kenya have become expensive and therefore difficult for those without money to seek electoral seats.

“The campaigns are very expensive indeed. A candidate, who has less than Sh10 million to facilitate parliamentary campaigns, is joking. One needs even more than that. I know of one colleague who spent Sh100 million to mount his campaigns,” said Bett.

Mati said he recently interacted with a first time MP seeking re-election and his budget was Sh89 million.

“The MP had his budget with a clear breakdown of how he will use his money,” said Mati.

Masime said whereas it would cost a parliamentary aspirant at least Sh10 million to mount a well-oiled campaign, it would require around the same figure for senate and governor campaigns.

Therefore, if every county had two aspirants each for the seat of governor and senate and each spend Sh60 million – half of the projected amount – then it will cost Sh11 billion.

“If you also have two MP and Women Representative aspirants vying in all the constituencies with each spending Sh10 million on the lower side, they will have cumulatively spent Sh6.7 billion in campaigns,” said Masime.

That means that if two coalitions would spend Sh10 billion each in the presidential campaigns together with the senate, gubernatorial and lawmakers’ campaigns, it will cost more than Sh36 billion.

Where does the money go? Bett said much of the money goes into logistics and publicity.

Hefty spending

“The biggest chunk of the money goes to fuel for cars, maintenance of supporters, publicity materials like posters, T-shirts and caps. These are very expensive aspects of the campaigns,” said Bett, who is also the ODM Elections Board Chairman.

However, Sam Mbithi, Chief Executive of Transparency International says much of the money goes to voter bribery.

“About 60 per cent of the money is spent on voter bribery whereas the rest goes to logistics of the campaigns. Most of the politicians literally buy the voters and this makes the exercise expensive and balloons the budget,” said Mbithi.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission recently advertised contractual jobs of election

tion managers in every constituency and according to a source at the commission; the teams will be expected to investigate voter bribery.

The question for many is how the candidates acquire money of such magnitude to toss out in the campaigns. The survey by CAPF showed that in the 2007 election, political parties raised Sh4.8 billion for campaigns from nomination fees and from foreigners.

The report also identified the sale of personal assets, bank loans, Saccos and pyramid schemes as other sources of finances for candidates.

A presidential contestant who has since dropped his bid said he sold his property in Westlands for Sh100million and in five months, the money was gone and he opted to drop his bid.

“Kenyan elections are really expensive. I spent that money in five months going round the country last year and I realised I would not continue with my bid,” he told The Standard On Sunday but asked not be named.

This election is expected be more expensive, given that candidates will be looking for support in 290 constituencies, and they also have to support candidates in the senatorial and gubernatorial races. The CAPF report says in a growing democracy, heavy spending in campaigns limits democratic space, and ushers into leadership people with selfish interest.

Held to ransom

“The biggest threat is that most of the donations come from dubious sources who immediately want to recoup their money after victory. That is how corruption begins. The funders of the campaigns begin to hold at ransom the newly elected leaders,” said Mati.

Currently, Part V Section 31 (5) of the Political Parties Act outlaws foreign contributions to parties, but the law is silent on candidates who are free to receive money from any other sources. It imposes a maximum limit of Sh5 million that a single donor can contribute and bans raising money from foreigners. The spirit of the Political Parties Act and the yet to be passed Campaign Finance Bill is to limit the impact of money on the outcome

of elections, reduce corruption and the impact of vested interests.

The Act also requires parties to publish their sources of funding, with their accounts audited by the Auditor-General and forwarded to Parliament and the Registrar of Political Parties.

Raila, Vice-President Kalonzo Musyoka and William Ruto have previously organised dinners to raise funds for their presidential campaigns.

MPs are yet to pass the Campaign Bill. Analysts have argued that even if the law is passed and assented to, potholes still remain because there is no capacity to enforce it.

“Some of these politicians will still receive the money anyway through proxies. There is no capacity by the electoral body to monitor the situation,” said Mati.

In a previous CAPF report, it did cost only Sh3, 700 for former President Moi in 1957 for campaigns to win as the first African to be elected to the Legislative Council. The group interviewed 32 retired politicians and MPs for the study.

The same organisation had a survey that showed that in 2007 for the 98 elected MPs interviewed, the lowest they spent on voter bribery alone was Sh2 million while the highest spenders used Sh7 million.

However because it is hard to trace every detail, most of the cash raised cannot be monitored. What is actually spent by candidates and their parties probably runs into billions of shillings.