The Deputy Speaker Thomas Tayebwa presided over Parliament.
In his communication, he asked the Minister of Local Government to brief the House in two weeks on the budgeting process by local government and why they submit budgets without the approval of the district councils. He said, “the same way we are protecting our powers of appropriation, should be the same way we protect powers of local governments and our councillors”. He also urged the members to reach out to their district councils to ascertain whether or not they had approved the budgets for their districts. He also informed the House that he had received a petition from rice traders who import rice from Tanzania via the border of Mutukula. He said the traders informed him that the Ministry of Trade issued import permits to brokers who are not rice traders with only one company allowed to import the rice leaving out the real rice traders. He referred the petition to the Committee on Trade to investigate the matter and report back to the House in two weeks.
In response State Minister for Trade, Hon. David Bahati said that for anyone that trades in rice, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Cooperatives exempted them from paying taxes and that the association collecting taxes from the traders at the border was their own creation. He said the Ministry together with the Committee on Trade was going to investigate and report back to the House.
In response, Deputy Speaker Tayebwa asked the Ministry of Trade that effective tomorrow, they should allow members or non-members of the “Rice Associations” to continue their rice trade as the investigations go on.
On another matter, Hon. John Baptiste Nambeshe Opposition Chief Whip said he is reliably informed of an Al’shabab terrorist attack on Ugandan officers in Somalia today. He asked the Minister of Security to update the House on the number of fatalities and casualties.
On another note Hon. Hellen Adoa, Minister of State for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (Fisheries) said, “We shall bring a statement (next week) concerning the armyworm, but our biggest challenge has been the budget cuts because half of our budget was taken to Parish Development Model.
On her part, Hon. Sarah Opendi (DWR, Tororo, NRM) UWOPA Chairperson said an urgent motion on the reabsorption of pregnant and breastfeeding girls was to be presented a while back but was yet to be presented, and yet schools closed and some have even reopened. She said such motions needed to be disposed of so that the Ministry of Education and Sports or any other ministry takes up the matter and sees how to handle it. She added that girl-children were still facing challenges and asked that the motion be put back on the order paper and handled.
Then, Silas Aogon (Kumi Municipality MP, Indp) raised concern over the poor state of the Kumi-Ngora road and the road connecting Kumi town to Kumi Hospital. He demanded action from Government and a statement to parliament from the Minister in charge.
Later, Hon. Gyaviira Ssemwanga, (MP Buyamba County, Rakai, NRM) moved a motion urging the government to develop and document a comprehensive taxation policy. He prayed that Government develops & publicizes a comprehensive taxation policy document for Uganda, based on the principles of good taxation. He further urged the Ministry of Finance to create a framework to ensure the effective implementation of the Domestic Revenue Mobilization Strategy. He said that the absence of a documented taxation policy left the Government with an unfettered discretion on what taxes to levy, what amounts when to levy, and on whom, which leads to an unfair taxation system. He said that if we were to save this economy from excessive borrowing then we needed to raise our tax revenue collection to support our national budget. “The Government should develop a comprehensive tax policy”, he said.
Contributing to the Motion, Hon. Kateshumbwa Dicksons (MP Sheema Municipality, NRM) said “We need to make decisions on tax matters following a policy not depending on a level of negotiation where someone approaches a certain office. This will help us achieve the principles that we need and also promote investment”. “We need the development of a tax policy that is customised to our economic structure and future aspirations”, he added. He said that this will guide and give a refined approach as we develop tax policy measures both here and at the EAC level where we are members and are implementing a Common External Tariff (CET) under the common market protocol.
Discussing the motion, Hon. Olanya Gilbert (Kilak South County MP, FDC) demanded an explanation from the government on the criteria used to issue tax exemptions. He was concerned that some of the big companies continued to receive tax holidays while small businesses paid heavy taxes. He said Uganda Revenue Authority was levying taxes on Ugandans based on assumptions. He said they send messages to Ugandans urging them to clear their tax arrears. He said the motion would help citizens know exactly what they are supposed to pay. He also asked the Minister of Finance to share the criteria for giving tax exemptions because according to him, the big companies which are meant to pay taxes and relieve the country are exempt from paying taxes, and the small companies or businesses, URA was after them all the time. He also wanted the Minister to tell the House which Companies are supposed to benefit from the tax holidays because the big companies are given taxes holidays and Ugandans are made to pay the taxes.
On a separate matter, Hon. Ssemujju Ibrahim (Kira Municipality MP, FDC) raised concern over the continued blocking of roads leading to Kololo Airstrip and roads leading to Nakasero State House when H.E the President was having meetings. He asked the Prime Minister to find a compound for the First Family so that they can stop packing military trucks in the middle of the road. “We have roads in Kololo but these days when coming to Parliament, there are trucks that seal the roads when the president is having meetings, even the KCCA roads near Nakasero State House. Maybe we should procure a compound for the president because if it’s not him, it’s the wife or son. I use the banks in Kololo and sometimes I go without money for a whole week”, he said.
Regarding a matter raised in the House on the failure of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority to provide seedlings to farmers due to lack of funds, the Deputy Speaker asked the Minister for Finance to come to the House and make a statement on the matter. He also referred the matter to the Committee on Trade for consideration and they report back to Parliament in two weeks.
Later, the Deputy Speaker suspended the debate on tax policy for the Prime Minister’s Question Time. The Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja tabled Government Business of the succeeding week. The government was expected to table the Animal Feeds Bill 2021 and Organ Transplant Bill 2021 for the first reading next week.
Hon. Jennifer Mbabazi (DWR Kagadi, NRM) asked the PM why the Muhorro-Ndaiga Road had not been included in the roads planned for construction during the NDPlll period (2020 – 2025). Hon. Nabbanja replied that the preliminary designs from Muhooro-Bwikara-Kyaterekera-Ndaiga were completed.
On his part Hon. Paul Akamba (Busiki County, NRM) sought to know about the incomplete bridge between Busiki County and Bunyole West where the Contractor had reportedly halted construction. In response, the Prime Minister said the Government was committed to completing this project to boost productivity in the area. The project was expected to be completed by July 2022. Currently, the physical progress of construction stood at 90%.
Hon. Jonathan Odur (Erute South, UPC) complained about the ruthless eviction of people from wetlands in Lango, Teso, and Acholi as characterized by indiscriminate destruction of crops by the Environmental Police. The Prime Minister responded thus: “You know the eco-benefits that come with wetlands. So, Government is committed to protecting wetlands across the country”.
Hon. Faith Kunihira (DWR Kyenjojo, NRM) said Kabarole National Referral Hospital had been overwhelmed by the number of victims following yesterday’s road carnage on the Mubende-Fort Portal highway. She sought a national response team to handle the situation. She informed the House that yesterday’s accident left many casualties but that the hospital where the victims were taken was overwhelmed because most required surgical attention. She asked that government sends financial help to the families and that in the future government should plan for air ambulances to respond to such tragedies. In response, the Premier said that some of the accident victims were going to be transferred to Mulago. “But I also see the need for air ambulances and I believe the Ministry of Health will be supported by this House to get an air ambulance in the near future”, she said.
Later, Minister of State for Internal Affairs David Muhoozi responded to a question raised by Hon. Semakula Luttamaguzi regarding the hiking of fees for the renewal of National Identity Cards from UGX 50,000 to UGX 500,000. On this matter, Hon. Muhoozi said NIRA suggested an increment of application fees for citizens who sought to change dates of birth where the “error’ was made by the card bearers. He said that the background to this proposal was premised on the surge of applications ranging between 1000-5000 a month, with 85% of applicants requesting the adjustment to match the 25 – 38 age bracket. He said the revision for fees was proposed for only changes relating to the correction of Dates of Birth and not all other changes as was misreported in the media. He said that this proposal, was still subject to consideration by Government and all the stakeholders, including Parliament and therefore had not been approved and effected.
Members also wanted the Minister to explain what the government plans to do for Ugandans who got their IDs at the start of the program and their IDs will be expiring on the 2nd of Dec 2024. They say a charge of UGX 50,000 was high for many Ugandans. On this, Hon. David Muhoozi said he would come up with an explanation next week.
The House later resumed debate on the motion urging the government to develop a documented comprehensive taxation policy.
Hon. Kateshumbwa said that the first tax legislation in Uganda was in 1919, following the formal tax which was the hat tax introduced in 1900. Since then, we have had tax laws that are not informed by a comprehensive taxation policy.
Debating the motion, Chief Opposition Whip John Baptiste Nambeshe said, “There is a serious government weakness in implementing documents that are developed. Currently, we have the domestic revenue mobilization strategy, which is very good, well documented but not implemented”. The House later adopted the motion to develop a documented comprehensive taxation policy. The Deputy Speaker gave the Minister of Finance 3 months to come up with an action taken report.
The House then went on to consider a Motion urging the government to urgently operationalize the Road Fund. The Motion was raised by Tororo Woman MP Hon Sarah Opendi. She said, “Failure by the Minister of Finance to operationalize the Uganda Road Fund had continually constrained its capacity to guarantee timely, reliable and adequate funding of road maintenance programmes, contributing to increased road accidents”.
On operationalizing the road fund, Minister of Finance Hon. Matia Kasaijja sought that the matter is harmonized with guidance from the Attorney General. The Deputy Speaker deferred the debate on the motion to next week Thursday 12th May 2022. He also directed the finance minister to consult the Attorney General and have the matter presented on Thursday next week.
The House was adjourned to Tuesday next week at 2:00 pm.