Members of Parliament have faulted government for waiving tax on the importation of unprocessed rice in an effort to avert the looming hunger in different parts of the country.
In her communication to the house on Wednesday afternoon, the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga noted that the Finance Ministry is waiving taxes for the said imports despite the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (BUBU) policy that was launched recently.
Finance state minister David Bahati informed Parliament that government has waived the tax for a period of four months effective from April and this is intended to bring down the price of rice from Shs 4000 to Shs 3000 per kg.
However, this did not go well with MPs who noted with concern that it is Parliament which is supposed to authorize any tax waiver and asked minister Bahati to explain why he bypassed the house.
Speaker Kadaga then asked the minister to appear before Parliament on Tuesday next week with a comprehensive answer on how the waiver was done.
Ministry of Finance permanent secretary Keith Muhakanizi and his boss, Minister Matia Kasaija are allegedly behind the rice tax waivers for personal benefit.
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According to statistics from Ministry of Trade, Uganda consumes about 300,000 tonnes of rice a year and this demand has largely been supplemented by imported rice.
Uganda Revenue Authority data shows that an average of 2.6 million tones of unprocessed rice are imported into Uganda every month.
URA commissioner for customs Dickens Kateshumbwa says that government in June 2016 collected Shs11.8 billion, Shs5 billion in October 2016, Shs60 million in July 2016 and Shs6.8 billion in November 2016.
On January 1 2017, senior Finance minister Matia Kasaija has instructed the minister of East African Community Affairs, Kirunda Kivejinja, to terminate tax incentives given to rice importers.
All of a sudden, the ministry has decided to increase taxes on husked rice to equal that of already processed rice which drove up prices of rice in the market.