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Parliament ends in chaos over debate on Mobile Money tax

Legislators vote on the controversial 0.5% Mobile Money tax in Parliament before MP Betty Amongi raised the quorum issue (PML Daily PHOTO)

PARLIAMENT: Parliament was on Thursday forced to postpone the debate on the new Mobile Money  0.5 percent tax after three-quarters of the MPs failed to turn up.

The Excise Duty Amendment Bill No.2 of 2018 was up for discussion and possible approval by the legislators after a report was submitted by the Committee on Finance to Parliament.

Then two reports, one majority and one minority, were submitted to the floor for debate.

The minority report was presented by Nakaseke South MP Paulson Luttamaguzi, opposing the tax and calling for its total removal.

“A tax on these services is likely to reverse all the benefits brought by mobile money [and]it is necessary for Government to salvage the economy and drop this tax,” the minority report, which was signed by Luttamaguzi; Kachumbala County MP Patrick Isiagi and Moses Walyomu (NRM, Kagoma County), read in part.

It added: “Taxes on mobile money services should be imposed on the transaction fees charged by the operators and not on the value of the transactions.”

At this moment, most of the new MPs attending the session were all in support of the minority report.

This prompted protests from a few NRM members present, who urged the Deputy Speaker, Mr Jacob Oulanyah, to postpone the debate, citing lack of quorum.

“The matter of quorum should be ascertained as we go to vote, we should not find ourselves legislating outside the rules,” said Oyam South MP Betty Amongi, who is also the minister of Lands.

The ruling party then started filing out of the House one by one, to ostensibly fail the debate, which they anticipated they would lose.

“Hon Members we are going to vote you cannot get out; please resume your seats and we proceed,” Mr Oulanyah pleaded.

However, his call fell on deaf ears as more MPs kept moving out. He then suspended the session for 15 minutes to allow MPs more time to enter the chambers and proceed with the bill.

However, the 15 minutes elapsed with no sign of MPs coming back.

The presiding Speaker then decided to adjourn the debate but with harsh words for the MPs.

“Whether we defer this matter by a year or two years, the results are likely to be the same; whether we postpone by one day or one week, the same results shall suffice,” said Mr Oulanyah.

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