MPs block govt plan to impose fees without House approval

State minister for General Duties Henry Musasizi appears before the Finance committee at Parliament on May 3, 2022. PHOTO/ DAVID LUBOWA

What you need to know:

  • The legislators reasoned that this would put Ugandans at the mercy of MDAs hence creating room for their exploitation.

The Parliamentary Committee on Finance yesterday rejected government’s proposal to permit entities that include ministries, government departments and agencies (MDA) to set fees without consulting Parliament.

The committee was meeting officials from the Ministry of Finance and Uganda Revenue Authority to scrutinise the Tax Amendment Bills tabled by the State Minister for General Duties, Mr Henry Musasizi, on March 31.

During yesterday’s session, the lawmakers specifically looked at, among others, a submission on the Finance Amendment Bill, 2022.

The Kabula County legislator, Mr Enos Asiimwe, said the Bill allowed government bodies to charge fees unregulated and this would be put Ugandans at their mercy hence creating room for their exploitation.

“We are trying to give MDAs powers to determine what we should pay for passports, driving licenses, and then we are actually taking away our powers as Parliament. We are putting Ugandans at the mercy of these MDAs,” Mr Asiimwe said.

He added: “When we give them these powers, at any time, they can wake up and put up exorbitant fees that we have no control over. I request that this proposal be dropped.”

The Budadiri West MP, Mr Nathan Nandala Mafabi, said all government MDAs should comply with the already established provisions to undertake such a move.

“But in this current state, people will sit there in the Ministry of Internal Affairs and say the passport is Shs2 million and you have no say, but in the Finance Act, Parliament will have a big say. Statutory instruments are just laid on the table, so you are endangering the people of Uganda,” Mr Nandala said.

In response, Mr Musasizi promised to make further consultations on the matter and return with an informed position.
“He [Mr Enos] has a point. Let us look through it and give you our final position because I agree with controls, there should be a second eye on how some things are done,” Mr Musasizi said.

If the proposal had been approved by Parliament, the Uganda Registration Service Bureau would be empowered to determine charges for companies’ registration as well as incorporation.

The same proposal would also bestow upon the Uganda Police Force the powers to suggest and define charges for permits and or licenses needed for anyone to acquire and transact in firearms.

Relatedly, the immigration department under the Ministry of Internal Affairs would also be given the discretion to determine charges one has to incur to attain documents such as passports and work permits.

The same committee on Friday last week rejected another government proposal to accord another five-year-long income tax holiday to the Bujagali power project. 

The government had reasoned that if the proposal was endorsed, there would be a trickle-down effect on the power costs incurred by consumers. 

Government through the Ministry of Finance revealed that this would result in reduced power costs for Ugandans.

Another Bill, which was tabled by Mr Musasizi, is the Income Tax (Amendments) Bill, 2022 where the government proposed that any person selling land, house or any piece of property or equipment purchased exclusively or primarily for business use will be required to pay tax if Parliament approves the proposed tax measures.

Not happy ... Powers

We are trying to give MDAs powers to determine what we should pay for passports, driving licenses, and then we are actually taking away our powers as Parliament,”   Mr Enos Asiimwe, the Kabula County legislator.