By Matilda Nakawungu
Friday 28 April 2016, Kampala – CSOs under the leadership of Action Aid Uganda held a Press Briefing on the ongoing 5 million citizens’ campaign. Launched on 20th April 2016, the campaign aims to petition the President of Uganda asking him to reject the new insertion by MPs “the employment income of person employed as a Member of Parliament, except salary” under Sec.21 of the Income Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2016. This amendment creates a tax exemption on MPs’ emoluments and allowances, which totals up to over 49 Billion Uganda Shilling and yet the same tax regime imposes taxation on emoluments and benefits of low earning citizens.
As part of the campaign, citizens were mobilized to append their signatures to this petition and in a period of one week, 2,821,909 citizens had signed the petition. These signatures represent Ugandan citizens from 75 district of Uganda asking the President to listen to the people and not assent to the amendment. Over 50% of the petitioners were women sending a clear message to the President and their duty bearers that if they do pay their tax, MPs will be equitably contributing to the development of the country, they will have the moral authority to demand accountability from the Executive as well as the moral right to ensure transparency and accountability in the application of public funds.
“Article 79 of the constitution provides for the main function of Parliament, which is to make laws for peace, order, development and good governance of Uganda. In addition, Parliament is expected to perform the roles of oversight and representation of the electorate. The role of an MP is not to contribute to funeral expenses, buy ambulances, or other duties they perform to support their voters. This they do out of their personal will and it should not be used as justification to change tax laws to exempt themselves from paying taxes.” said Action Sid Uganda’s Harriet Gimbo while presenting the Press Statement.
She mentioned that citizens would rather see their legislators push for a more equitable tax justice system that seeks to increase revenue for the country to address the existing social service challenges.
“If taxing allowances is unfair, Legislators would have pushed for the exemption for all salaried workers (Private and Public). And to harmonise salaries and emoluments of all Public servants, Uganda needs a “Salary Review Commission” she added.
At the end of the 2nd week of the campaign, CSOs steering the campaign upon reaching the target 5 million signatures will present this petition to the President and the Office of the Prime Minister for his consideration.