The government has introduced a Bill seeking to regulate the use of mobile money and other electronic payments systems.
The National Payment Systems Bill, 2019, was published in the Uganda Gazette on October 11, and Presented to Parliament on Thursday, promising an end to a decade-long wait for a law in this regard.
The Bill protects mobile money operators from being terminated by telecoms, but also provides for recovery of money of a deceased person.
The objective of the Bill is “to regulate payment systems; to provide for the safety and efficiency of payment systems; and to provide for the functions of the central bank in relation to payment systems.”
The Bill also seeks “to prescribe the rules governing the oversight and protection of payment systems; to provide for financial collateral arrangements; to regulate payment service providers; to regulate issuance of electronic money; to provide for the oversight of payment instruments and for other related matters.”
Finance minister Matia Kasaija argues that the existing legal regime is bogged with defects, especially the absence of a National Payment law.
“Currently, there is no comprehensive payment systems law, though Bank of Uganda (BoU)has always relied on Article 162( 1) of the Constitution which provides that BoU shall encourage and promote economic development through effective and efficient operations of the banking and credit system to develop the payment and securities settlement systems,” the minister’s justification reads, in part.
The government further states that the existing provision is limited to systems such as the Real Time Cross Settlement System for interbank transfer, the Automated Clearing House System for the clearance of cheques, and the Electronic Funds Transfers.
The securities settlement systems, including the Central Securities Depository systems operated by the BoU and the Securities Central Depository System operated by Uganda Securities Exchange, have also been implemented.
As a remedy to the defects, the government has placed its confidence in the Bill, which it says will foster public trust, financial stability and integrity, among others.
The Bill mandates the central bank to regulate, supervise and oversee the operations of payment systems in order to ensure their safety and efficiency. This includes licensing of operators.
Those who fall prey face a fine of Shs40m or a four-year jail term or both, according to Clause 7(3) of the Bill.
A body corporate (business entities) is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 7,000 currency points (Shs140m). A currency point is equivalent to Shs20,000.
“A person convicted of an offence under subsection (3), shall immediately cease to offer payment services and shall be disqualified from acquiring a licence under this Act,” the Bill reads in part.
Shs40m fine for persons operating without licence, Shs140m fine for business entities operating without licence and Shs5m fine for forgeries at the time of applying for a licence.
Licencees (operators) shall be required to pay annual fees to the central bank by the 31st day of January, short of which a daily fee of Shs2m will apply for each day of breach.
“The unpaid annual licence fee and any civil penalty payable, shall be a debt due to the central bank by the licensee,” the Bill reads.
The Bill also prohibits mobile money operators from performing some functions of the bank or Microfinance institutions such as borrowing and lending out money. The Bill also bars operators from “counting or issuing airtime as electronic money.”
Whoever contravenes the provisions is liable to a fine of Shs7m or a jail term of two years.
Any registered mobile money account that does not carry out any transaction in nine consecutive months shall be deemed dormant and blocked. Telecom operators will then have to notify the user that the account has been blocked and also provide instructions on how to get it reactivated.
If the account remains blocked for another six months, the telecoms shall be instructed to close the mobile money account, according to proposals contained in the Bill.However, the money on the account shall not be lost. “The central bank shall refund any unclaimed balances to the account holder of an electronic money account or, if the account holder is dead, his or her legal representative, upon a request made within seven years...,” reads Clause 57(8) of the Bill.