Pharmacy owners protest trading licence fees

Friday May 07 2021
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A client seeking services at one of the drug shops in Kimaanya -Kabonera Municipality, Masaka City on May 4, 2021. Photo/ Malik Fahad Jjingo

By Fahad Malik Jjingo

Operators of pharmacies and drug stores in Masaka City have protested a move by authorities to continue levying trading licence fees on their businesses, saying the tax was outlawed by court.
In his May 2020 ruling, Kampala High Court Judge Musa Ssekaana said the inclusion of pharmacies and drug stores to acquire a trading licence in order to operate, is illegal and contrary to the National Drug Policy and Authority Act.

The judge also ordered that pharmacies are not supposed to pay trade licence fees pursuant to item 30 and 35 of part A of the Trade ( Licensing) (Amendment of schedule) Instrument No.2 of 2017.
“…and it [issuance of trading licences] conflicts with the specific legislation. Where two legislations conflict between general legislation and specific legislation, the specific legislation overrides the general legislation on the subject matter,” the judge ruled.

Despite this one-year-old court ruling, drug store operators say several local government authorities such as sub-county and division councils have continued to levy trading licence fees on them yet they pay a similar tax to the National Drug Authority (NDA).
Ms Hanifah Nakimera, the operator of God’s Grace Drug Shop in Kimaanya/ Kabonera Municipality in Masaka City, said her drug shop has already been issued with an assessment form of Shs77,300.

“These fees are not only unfair, but also unnecessary since we have already paid money to NDA, another government body that regulates our operations. I request NDA to swiftly come to our rescue before we are kicked out of business due to unfair taxation,” she told Daily Monitor on Monday.
Mr Andrew Mwanje, the proprietor of Victory Drug Shop in Kasana Village, said he was issued an assessment form of Shs60,000 early last month and when he complained, he was threatened that it could be increased since his colleagues were paying higher fees.

“We need to be exempted from such unfair charges because we pay other taxes, including that charged on certifying our documents whenever we need to get practising licences and those of our drug shops,” he said. 
Masaka City town clerk John Behangane said he was not aware of any court ruling barring local councils from collecting trading licences.

“I don’t have evidence about the said court ruling, but it is okay, let them formally complain to us with evidence and we shall look into the matter and adjust because we are law abiding,” he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday
Mr Muhammad Lukwago, the central region NDA manager, advised the drug shop owners to form an association that can fight for their rights.

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“When the Pharmaceutical Society of Uganda went to Kampala High Court challenging the Trade Licensing Amendment Act 2017, it was categorically ruled that the act of double licence fee collection is unfair, discriminatory, oppressive and arbitrary,” he said.

Sensitisation
A couple of weeks ago, NDA organised a meeting with operators of drug shops in Masaka where they were sensitised about their role in the medicine value chain to ensure access to good quality, safe and effective medicine. Mr Muhammad Lukwago, the central region NDA manager, advised the drug shop owners to always employ qualified people and buy drugs from licensed pharmacies.

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