MPs run out of Parliament over mobile money tax

The Deputy Speaker of Parliament Jacob Oulanyah was on Thursday forced to adjourn Parliamentary sittings to Tuesday next week after debate on the Excise Duty Amendment Bill, 2018 collapsed following a walkout of mostly NRM MPs.

The Bill seeks to amend the law that introduced a 1% tax on all mobile money transactions.

The law became effective on July 1, but was widely rejected as unfair, forcing President Yoweri Museveni to direct the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Matia Kasaija to cause for its amendment and reduce the tax from 1% to 0.5%.

MPs had started to vote on the Bill by show of hands when Lands minister Betty Amongi challenged the proceedings on grounds of lack of quorum.

MPs 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 forced to suspend the House for 15 minutes to allow in more members to come in.

At least 154 MPs were required to vote on the Bill but there were only 97 MPs in the House at the time a head count was conducted.

On resumption, the numbers had further gone down that the Chief Opposition Whip, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda accused Usuk MP Peter Ogwang and some ministers of mobilising MPs to keep away from the House.

“You see colleagues and Ministers mobilizing themselves to get out of the house; 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,” Ssemujju said.

Government preferred to fail the sitting upon a realisation that the mobile money tax clause was bound to be knocked after the majority of the MPs supported a minority report which was authored by Nakaseke South MP, Paulsen Ssemakula Lutamaguzi, Kachimbala MP Patrick Isiagi Opolot and Kagoma MP Moses Walyomu recommending for the scrapping of the entire clause that introduced mobile money tax.