Embattled Minister of State for Trade Harriet Ntabaazi has laughed at a recommendation from the parliamentary committee on trade and tourism who want her boss President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to take serious action including firing her from cabinet over Shs.17.8bn rice deal.
On Thursday, Mwine Mpaka, the chairperson of the parliamentary committee on trade and tourism tabled before the parliamentary plenary their committee report on allegations of corruption, abuse of office, bribery against the minister.
Parliament, which was chaired by speaker Annet Anita Among adopted the report and the minister was convicted on all the allegations. Recommendations were made that government investigation agencies, with powers for prosecution, should proceed with the matter and the minister be further investigated and if found guilty, be charged under the Anti-Corruption Act.
Mpaka told parliament that his committee established that the minister illegally directed Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) Commissioner General John Musinguzi Rujoki on VAT exemption on importers of rice into the country.
He explained that the minister’s directive was very disturbing and resulted in rice trade disruption because traders who protested the directive suspended their operations hence leading to increase in prices of rice and causing government to lose a lot of taxes.
“The Committee finds that the minister’s directive to URA was ultra vires to her functions since she has no mandate over tax matters. Her failure to hear from traders before imposing arbitrary orders exposes the government to unnecessary litigations,” Mpaka said.
He further revealed that the committee established that the minister illegally instituted Rice Agribusiness Development Foundation (RADFO), a limited company, as a top organ in the country, to regulate rice business without consulting the stakeholders in the business.
The Committee further established that the minister’s company collected over Shs.17.8bn from rice traders, as a condition for them to be allowed to import their rice into the country especially from Tanzania.
The Committee recommended that the minister together with RADFO bosses be investigated over the financial crimes committed against the rice traders and the country at large.
Early this year, Kampala Rice Traders Limited petitioned parliament seeking help from the minister who was frustrating their business for her personal benefit.
However, when contacted, minister Ntabaazi boasted that the legislators are wasting their time to recommend for her dismissal from the cabinet.
“This is not the first time that parliament is making such biased recommendations against a minister. Do you remember what they did to Dr. Monica Musenero and my friend Persis Namuganza? All their reports are politically motivated,” Ntabaazi said.
She explained that she consulted all the stakeholders in the rice business before instituting the RADFO and it helped in resolving the problem which was facing the rice business dealers in the country.
She accused the committee of being biased because despite all the accusations put against her in the report, they never asked of her to answer them when she appeared before the committee.
By Sengooba Alirabaki