Opposition says Coffee deal report to be taken to state House

The Leader of the Opposition (LOP) in Parliament, Mathias Mpuuga has questioned the planned move by members of Parliament’s Trade Committee to present the report on the controversial coffee agreement to State House on Friday.

Mpuuga raised the issue as a procedural matter during the Thursday plenary sitting chaired by Deputy Speaker, Thomas Tayebwa.  

“I am getting information from some of my Members that they have been directed, to go and present that report to State House tomorrow, and I am seeking your indulgence whether you have instructed your committee to go and present that report to State House but not Parliament?” Mpuuga enquired.

This follows several demands by a section of MPs for the report on the controversial agreement between the government and the Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited to be allocated space on the order paper, presented to parliament and debated. The demands started last week after the Committee Chairperson, Mwine Mpaka indicated that the report was ready.

In response to the demands, Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among on Tuesday this week cautioned legislators against making reckless statements in regard to the committee report. She assured the House that the leadership of Parliament was not suffocating the report, and that this would be presented and debated soon.

One day after her communication to the House, LOP Mpuuga revealed to parliament about a planned meeting at State House involving the Committee about the report. 

He wondered how a Parliament report could be discussed outside the House before a formal presentation and a debate happens.

Thomas Tayebwa, the Deputy Speaker said that he was not privy to any such meeting but hastened to add that any side in the House can always consult their members. 

Tayebwa however noted that he was going to inquire from the leadership of the committee and its members in order to guide them.

Maurice Kibalya, the Bugabula South MP also raised a procedural issue questioning why the report had not yet been uploaded on the Parliament system by the Clerk to Parliament for the MPs to access it.

 He also confirmed that members of the Trade Committee were carrying out Covid-19 tests in preparation for the Friday meeting at State House.

Tayebwa said that the report would be uploaded and also discussed in the House.

According to the controversial coffee agreement, the government gave Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited free land in the Industrial and Business Park at Namanve measuring 27 acres after indicating its capacity to establish a coffee processing facility in Kampala. 

The agreement also gives the company priority rights to buy Uganda’s coffee and its concession will end in 2032 but is subject to renewal. 

The agreement also exempts the Vinci Coffee Company from paying Income tax, Pay As You Earn, Excise duty, and remitting NSSF contributions. The agreement also provides a 5 percent subsidy on electricity for the company.

However, a number of people involved in the coffee business including farmers, exporters, processors and opposition legislators have contested the agreement and described it as a bad deal.

 The Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Abed Bwanika, says the agreement contravenes the Constitution and Section 52 of the National Coffee Act, 2012, which mandates the Uganda Coffee Development Authority to determine coffee prices.

But, Attorney General Kiwanuka Kiroywa and Finance Minister Matia Kasaija defended the coffee agreement. 

The Attorney General told the committee that it was legal and binding.

Uganda Radio Network, URN has since learnt that the committee report recommends the cancellation of the agreement on grounds that it is unconstitutional and violates different legal provisions.

 The committee wants fresh negotiations of the agreement after the cancellation is made and a report presented to parliament within six months. 

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