NRM caucus treasurer in trouble over mobile money tax vote

Namutumba Woman MP Mariam Naigaga is facing disciplinary action by the ruling NRM leadership for voting against the government position on a motion to scrap a tax on mobile money.

Naigaga is among the 54 NRM MPs that voted to have the mobile money tax scrapped as opposed to the government position to reduce the tax from 1% on all mobile money transactions to 0.5% on withdraws.

While the party may not go for the other 53 NRM MPs, Naigaga will most likely be disciplined because of her leadership position on the NRM Parliamentary caucus.

She is the caucus’ treasurer.

“Many people were greatly concerned about one of the caucus members going against the caucus decision. This is really out of order, she wasn’t in order and we have rules which we follow,” Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa told journalists.

Some ministers and several NRM MPs who did not agree with the tax quietly walked out of Parliament on October 2 to avoid the vote that required each of the MPs to openly vote for or against the tax that is widely unpopular.

The government side carried the day with 164 votes against 124 votes that were in support of Ndorwa East MP Wilfred Niwagaba’s motion to scrap the tax.

Naigaga’s boldness to remain in the Parliamentary chamber and vote against the government position shocked many on either sides of the House, but, while her colleagues in the Opposition hailed her for being independent, her decision hurt Nankabirwa.

“The Rules (of procedure of the NRM caucus) allow a member of the caucus who is having difficulty in supporting the caucus decision to go and discuss with the Government Chief Whip. You can put it in writing and I can advice you in writing. I can advise you to go and hold your view if you are so pertinent about your view, I can say, you are allowed to hold that view,” Nankabirwa said.

“But to surprise me and just stand up and go against your own decision, you, an MP who is on the Executive?! This isn’t acceptable; MPs are concerned and you can’t let go just like that,” Nankabirwa added.

Government Chief Whip Ruth Nankabirwa

She said that the caucus executive has to sit and put Naigaga to task to explain what really happened and why she didn’t inform the caucus leadership.

“We chose to go into multi-party dispensation, we must respect how parties work. I am observing the individualism coming up which was working well when we were in the Movement political system. We moved away from that, we chose to serve our parties and we committed ourselves to move in harmony and support party positions be it opposition, that is why we have independents, if you want to be an independent, go and become an independent then we will know that for you, you don’t care, you are carrying an independent mind,” Nankabirwa said.

Naigaga however seemed unbothered by Nankabirwa’s threat for disciplinary action.

Speaking to journalists, Naigaga challenged Nankabirwa to cite a specific clause in the NRM constitution that she breached.

“She should quote the particular section of the NRM constitution. I don’t like debating on flat things that have no backing because I think that apart from being an NRM member, for me to get the NRM flag, I was voted by the people, so, I have to balance, if I feel that NRM has taken a decision, I have to go back and tell voters that this is a party decision, if the people tell me this is what they need I go with what the people want,” Naigaga said.

“In all the tax amendments that were brought by the Minister of Finance, there were about 20 revenue proposals, but why do you think of all the tax proposals, it was the mobile money tax that saw the people deep down from the village complain that they have been mistreated?” She wondered.

Naigaga still insists that government needs to scrap the mobile money tax.

“Mobile money tax touches on the income of individuals which means that if you touch on people’s income this will affect the other taxes. I sit on the Finance Committee and we invited many people to submit on this tax but most of them never supported this tax,” she reasoned.

The youthful MP argued that for Parliament to carry out its duties, it has to listen to the people that plan for the economy rather than for MPs to posture as experts.

“I am requesting the Chief Whip, because in am under her, if she says I need to be disciplined, I will respond as long as it is within NRM Constitution and it is clearly spelt out,” Naigaga said.