MPs summon, Kasaija, Ggoobi and investor over coffee deal

Finance minister Matia Kasaija (2nd left) exchanges documents with Ms Enrica Pinetti (right) after signing an agreement with the Finance ministry to establish a coffee processing plant in Uganda, on February 10. PHOTO / FILE

What you need to know:

Parliament Speaker Anita Among instructed the Trade committee to probe the controversial coffee deal.

The Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry has summoned individuals and entities behind the endorsement of the controversial coffee deal to explain their role in the agreement government signed with Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Ltd (UVCC), a private company that was granted exclusive rights to sell and market Ugandan coffee on the international market.

READ: Parliament must wake up and smell the coffee
Those summoned to appear before the committee include Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Italian investor Enrica Pinetti, the woman behind the multi-million dollar construction of the International Specialised Hospital, and Mr Ramathan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary of the Finance ministry. 

Mr Kasaija is said to have signed the deal on behalf of the government while Mr Ggoobi is alleged to have witnessed the signing of the controversial deal in February. Ms Pinetti signed on behalf of UVCC.
Others are the Attorney General, Kiryowa Kiwanuka, Trade minister Francis Mwebesa, Agriculture minister Frank Tumwebaze, and the Solicitor General.  

Mr Tumwebaze last week distanced himself from the deal.
Also included on the list are Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Uganda Coffee Federation, Uganda Coffee Quality Traders’ Association, Uganda Coffee Traders’ Alliance, large scale coffee farmers, Kawacom, UGACOF, ESCO, OLAM and several others. All those invited are expected to appear before the committee on April 25 and April 26.  
 Last week, the Speaker of Parliament, Ms Anita Among, instructed the Trade committee to probe the controversial coffee deal. It is not clear as to when the committee will report back to Parliament. 
Mr Mpaka Mwine, the committee chairperson, yesterday failed to respond to our repeated calls and text messages. Ms Catherine Lamwaka, the vice chairperson of the committee also didn’t answer our repeated calls.

Other works
Ms Pinetti is the individual behind the multi-million dollar construction of the International Specialised Hospital, which is more than two years behind deadline despite the $379 million (about Shs1.4 trillion) backing from government.  
Ms Pinetti’s firm, according to the secret agreement, whose details have since been leaked to the public, will be exempted from paying for import duties, value-added taxes, excise duty, stamp duty, and corporate income tax.  
Last week, Mr Ggoobi said the Attorney General cleared the agreement and no law was broken.
Dr Abed Bwanika, the Member of Parliament for Kimanya-Kabonera, said the agreement alienates Ugandans from the coffee business as it gives monopoly of purchase and export of coffee to only one organisation.

Precedent
Mr David Kabanda, the Kasambya County MP, said the agreement is a disaster and sets a wrong preceden in dealings with private companies. He proposed the revocation of the agreement.
“We shall set a very bad precedent if this coffee agreement is executed. It means in future, one might decide on the breed of livestock to be reared in Uganda. Next will be Bananas and maize,” he tweeted.


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