Parliament Says Speaker Oulanyah’s Comments on New Taxes were ‘Misrepresented’

Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Rt Hon Jacob Oulanyah

Parliament has come out to clarify on comments made by Deputy Speaker, Rt Hon Jacob Oulanyah on the largely contested Social Media Tax and Mobile Money Tax that were recently effected by government.

Oulanyah who was attending an event by the Uganda Law Society at Kampala Serena Hotel on Tuesday is quoted by some sections of the media to have said that Ugandans should stop complaining about the new levies.

The Speaker, while at the event dismissed the claims that the new tax measures were oppressive, saying that MPs too will be affected. Oulanyah also reportedly noted that the taxes were introduced in the spirit of boosting Uganda’s domestic revenue, and urged citizens to comply.

“You have four smart phones; you use airtime where a call costs more than 200 per unit and you can speak for more than 15 minutes, and then you say that a Shs 200 tax is too much?” the Deputy Speaker is quoted by one of the online news publications as having said.

Now, Parliament through its Directorate for Communication and Public Affairs has come out to refute some of the media reports regarding Oulanyah’s statements.

In a statement issued Tuesday, Chris Obore, the Director for Communication and Public Affairs at Parliament said Oulanyah’s remarks had been deliberately abridged and divorced from the context which he said was “ill conceived”.

He termed the reports as “deliberate misrepresentations” in the media caused by “mischievous skewing of what the Rt Hon Oulanyah said, to present them as though they were his personal position on the laws”.

Obore adds that “throughout his remarks, the Rt Hon Oulanyah made it clear that he was relaying the arguments that were made in the House as MPs considered the tax laws”.

“The Rt Hon Oulanyah also left no doubt as to the position of a presiding officer in such debates – that of facilitating and guiding decision making,” the statement added.

According to Obore, a presiding officer [Oulanyah] may have a personal position on matters before him, but his role restricts him to only facilitate the process leading to decision making.

The new levies have been met with strong criticism from the majority of Ugandans including politicians, activists, digital communication experts and the business fraternity especially those in the mobile money sector.

Many have cited the element of double taxation arguing that the tax burden is heavily affecting the ordinary Ugandans who rely and earn a living off the use of social media and mobile money platforms.

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