This was revealed by Mwine Mpaka, the Committee Chairperson while presenting its investigation report during plenary sitting on Wednesday. The Committee's investigation stems from a petition to Parliament by the Kampala Rice Traders Association in May, 2022.
Parliament’s Committee on Tourism,
Trade and Industry has faulted its line Minister, Harriet Ntabazi for overstepping
her mandate and issuance of an illegitimate directive that has disrupted rice
business in the country.
This was revealed by Mwine
Mpaka, the Committee Chairperson while presenting its investigation report during
plenary sitting on Wednesday. The Committee's investigation stems from a petition to Parliament by the Kampala
Rice Traders Association in May, 2022.
On 21 April 2022, Ntabazi
issued a directive to the Commissioner, Customs Uganda Revenue Authority – URA directing
the Authority to stop clearing Value Added Tax (VAT) exempted rice imports at
In their petition, the
aggrieved rice traders cited that Ntabazi’s directive to install the Rice
Agribusiness Development Foundation (RADFO) as an apex body with autonomous
powers to import rice, fleeced them and frustrated trade.
While presenting the report to
the House for adoption, Mpaka disclosed that Ntabazi exceeded her powers to
issue the directive, and without lawful authority instituted the apex body in
the rice sub sector without involving the rice traders and associations.
Mpaka described Ntabazi’s
actions as ‘disruptive and do not encourage trade order in the rice trade’ and
directed her to withdraw, with immediate effect the directive describing it as
‘unfair trade policy on rice importation. The Committee's report which was subsequently
adopted by the House, called upon the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to
investigate the actions of Ntabazi that ‘tantamount to abuse of office and corruption.
Mpaka explained that the
Minister’s actions facilitated corrupt transactions with agents, bribery,
influence peddling, conflict of interest which are all crimes provided for
under the anti-corruption Act of 2009.
//Cue in: “The Inspectorate of…
Cue out:…her conduct above.”//
The report indicated that RADFO
has been conniving with URA officials to fleece the rice importers of the Shilling
180,000 per ton of rice imported into the country which is exorbitant compared
to Shillings 40,000 per ton that the traded were paying before the directive.
//Cue in: “The responsible for…
Cue out:…anti-corruption Act of 2009.”//
As a result of the Minister’s
actions, the Committee recommends that civil action be instituted against RADFO
with the aim of obtaining compensation amounting to Shillings 17.8 billion
which was illegally, unlawfully, illegitimately, and fraudulently collected
from the traders.
Moroto Municipality MP, Francis
Adome called for a forensic audit on RADFO on suspicion that their operations
are syndicated with intention to defraud traders after it emerged that the body
only declared Shillings one billion to the Government out of the Shillings 17.8
However, in response, Ntabazi challenged
the report and argued that the main objective of putting private sector
entities as an apex body was to enhance proper self-regulation to create
stability and trade order in the sector at the cross borders.
The Minister also pointed that by
the terms of reference, RADFO was not obliged to collect any money from rice
traders on behalf of the Government. “The terms and reference of RADFO were never to collect any money from anybody,”
Ochola's journalism career begun from Radio King 90.2 FM in Gulu around 2009, and Radio Rupiny 95.7 Fm under Vision Group in 2012. He also reported for Mighty Fire 91.5 Fm, Kitgum in 2015 before joining Wizarts Foundation in 2017.
He has been reporting for Uganda Radio Network (URN) since 2017 before being posted as Bureau Chief Kitgum, and latr Gulu between 2018 - 2021. Currently, he reports from Parliament.