Parliament has demanded that the National COVID-19 Response Fund immediately withdraws a letter seeking money from salaried employees to help in the fight against the Coronavirus disease.
The National COVID-19 Response Fund recently reached out to employers asking for their support to collect at least Shillings 10,000 from each employee to enable the fund to raise money for Uganda’s COVID-19 response. The Fund intends to raise at least 15 billion Shillings from employees for the cause.
Emmanuel Katongole, the chairperson of the Uganda National Response Fund to the COVID-19 Pandemic said that the letters were formally written to various Chief Executive Officers (CEOs), after a virtual engagement with selected business leaders, to extend the appeal for a voluntary contribution in May and June.
The request from the COVID-19 response fund formally made on May 12, 2020, has since received a backlash from a section of workers who accused the government of being insensitive to employees who are already threatened by job losses and pay cuts, occasioned by the outbreak of the virus.
The matter was raised by Buhweju MP Francis Mwijukye who questioned the move by the COVID-19 Fund officials to solicit money from an already stressed population.
This prompted the Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, to ask David Bahati, the State Minister for Planning, to explain how the government hatched a plan to tax workers without parliamentary approval.
Bahati explained that contribution to the Fund is voluntary and that the 10,000 Shillings request is just an idea and not a tax. He added that the government was not going to deduct money from the salaries of employees without approval.
Kadaga tasked Bahati to ensure that the letter is withdrawn saying that it was causing problems. The State Minister committed to following up the matter but insisted that the letter did not mean any harm since it was just an appeal.