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Legislators flee vote on mobile money tax

PARLIAMENT | The Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah, was forced to adjourn plenary after a heated debate on mobile money tax.

The decision was made after Oyam South MP Betty Amongi rose on the point of procedure, challenging the lack of quorum for the debate on Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2018. The Bill calls for amendment of mobile money tax levy from 1% on all transactions to 0.5% on withdraws.

At that moment members had agreed that since the motion was so contentious, they would vote on each clause by show of hands and a good number had voted to delete clause 2 which among others provides for doing away with the entire 0.5% tax on mobile money.

Oulanyah was later forced to suspend the House to allow in more members so as to have the required quorum of 154 as opposed to the 97 members that were present then.

“I am required to suspend the House for 15 minutes to allow time for more members to come and then come back so that we make a decision,” he said.

Oulanyah warned that, “Even if the matter is deferred to another date or a year ahead, the result are likely to be the same.”

When the House resumed the sitting after the 15 minutes break but there were even fewer members than those present during the time of suspension and the Deputy Speaker instead moved into another discussing, handing the Floor to Lands Minister Betty Amongi to respond to the concerns of land evictions in Nakaseke District.

This prompted the Opposition Chief Whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, to rise on a point of procedure challenging the fact that NRM senior members were demobilising members from returning to the house.

“We take Parliament business to be very serious for which we swore to protect, what signal shall we be sending to the public that the same minister who stood here to fail Parliament conduct business is given the same platform to begin talking to Parliament,” Ssemujju said.

“I have seen colleagues, my friend Peter Ogwang mobilizing MPs to get out of Parliament; we must not be physical present but we must be in the shape to transact business. You see colleagues and ministers mobilizing themselves to sabotage business by walking out; if the purpose of government was to fail Parliament business today and as a speaker you must priorities government business, why do we keep here pretending when those running the state don’t want us to continue with business.”

Oulanyah concedes

Oulanyah later ruled that the House be adjourned to next week since several members had showed to interest in the business that was following that included Ministers responding to question that were raised by legislators.

The Bill had appeared before the House for the second and third reading and ot would thus be passed in totality or with amendments.

By the look of things and the mood in the House, a number of members were in support of the minority report of the committee on Finance that was signed by Nakaseke South MP, Paulsen Kasana Lutamaguzi, Patrick Isiagi Opolot and Moses Walyomu.

The minority report had recommended that the Excise duty (Amendment) No.2, Bill of 2018 be passed with an amendment that the entire excise duty on mobile money transactions be removed.

On July 1, government introduced a 1% tax on all mobile money transactions and Shs200 daily levy on social media usage.

The decision was met with national condemnation and following public outcry and pressure, government relented and has since tabled the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2018 to have the mobile money tax reduced to 0.5% and only limited to withdrawals.

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