Parliament disagrees with gov’t on scratch cards ban

MPs will meet telecom companies and Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) over government’s controversial proposal to ban airtime scratch cards.

This was the middle ground position that was reached on Tuesday, July 31, after a stormy two-hour-debate on the proposal that the Minister of ICT and Information Frank Tumwebaze vigourously defended.

“We shall have the meeting with telecom companies so that we get what we can explain to our constituents; I think we both need each other on this matter,” said Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga.

Busiki MP Paul Akamba raised the issue of the impending ban on airtime scratch cards as a question for oral answer to Tumwebaze.

Akamba said his voters were concerned about adverts announcing the impending ban.

Tumwebaze, in his response, found no fault in the proposed ban.

“UCC and the security agencies recommended to government that vending of airtime cards was directly linked to the selling of illegally registered SIM cards and would facilitate airtime recharge and top-ups manually without any digital tracing,” Tumwebaze told Parliament.

He said, the proposed ban will among others, “create more opportunities through formalized distribution [of scratch cards]”.

MPs would have none of that, and, many vehemently opposed it.

“We should also know that we come from villages; if we have reached here and our status has improved, let us not forget where we come from,” said Lily Adong (Nwoya Woman).

Adjuman Woman MP Jesca Ababiku criticised Tumwebaze for suggesting that banning scratch cards would contribute to the fight against criminality.

“We believe the cards have serial numbers. Why is it difficult for government to trace suspicious users using the serial numbers?” Ababiku wondered.

The ban had been planned to take effect August 1st.

Dokolo Woman MP Cecilia Ogwal raised fears that it could be a scheme by telecom companies to drive airtime vendors out of business.

The meeting between MPs and the telecom companies is expected to be an interactive session in order to offer a platform for exhausting the frequently asked questions about the move, which has caused jitters in the countryside.

Kadaga cautioned government against the hurried attempt at digital migration, which she said has the potential of disrupting local Ugandans.

“We agree that technology is there to change, but it has to change together with the people,” said Kadaga.