Kadaga, Parliamentary Commission disagree over payment of MPs’ social media tax

Whether Parliament should pay or not pay for the MPs social media tax has become a matter of contention, and is threatening to split the Parliamentary Commission – Parliament’s administrative arm.

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga who also chairs the commission, has in a surprise move disagreed with the decision of the Parliamentary Commission to pay the Over the Top (OTT) tax.

Parliament plans to the month Shs 6,000 social media tax and provide 5GB data bundles for each of 459 legislators at Shs 30,000.

This means parliament will spend Shs 197.8 million annually on social media tax and the data bundles. MTN Uganda Limited emerged the best bidder, according to the bid documents displayed on May 2.

Airtel Uganda and Africell Uganda were eliminated in the preliminary stages of the restricted domestic bidding process.

However, the Speaker of parliament, Rebecca Kadaga says she doesn’t believe that the public should pay OTT for the MPs.

Addressing journalists at Parliament on Thursday, Kadaga promised to find out those behind the decision and scrutinize the contract.

“It came to my attention that one MP had told the media that although Parliament’s political leadership was not abreast of current events, an agreement had been reached between MTN and the House’s Contract Committee; that the OTT tax be met by taxpayers. I would like to reiterate that I am opposed to this arrangement. And if there is any such agreement, it will be looked at it again and corrected. We as MPs should be able to pay our OTT,” Kadaga said.
Kadaga’s statement come a day after Robinah Nabanja, a member of the parliamentary commission defended the decision to pay OTT and provide data bundles for the legislators.

Nabanja said it was okay for parliament to pay for the tax since the Ipads the MPs use belong to parliament and they use them for official work.

She likened the Ipads to someone hired to dig a using hoe, saying they are not expected to bring their own hoes.

Usuk MP, Peter Ogwang, who is a member of the Parliamentary Commission in charge of Finance in the Parliamentary Commission also defended the decision, saying just like Parliament buys internet for its computers in the house they are also extending that service to pay the OTT tax for the MPs Ipads and not their private phones.

Parliament approved the social media tax that requires every social media user in Uganda to pay Shillings 200 to access social media pages such as Facebook, twitter and instagram on May 30th last year.

The tax drew outrage from several Ugandans, saying it would curtail access to information. Several legislators supported the social media tax, saying it would generate additional income for government.