By Our Reporter
Sections of the media were last week awash with reports on allegations of bribery against the parliamentary committee on Finance, which were made by Hon. Dr. Michael Lulume Bayigga, (Buikwe South) who stated in a press conference last week that the British American Tobacco Uganda Limited (BATU) had bribed the Committee of Finance. This he claimed was done to influence the delay in the passing of the Tobacco Control Bill.
Following the allegations, research has been done and it has been established that the allegation is totally untrue and unfortunate. It is therefore necessary to make clarifications as follows:-
• The Tobacco Control Bill 2014 was tabled in Parliament at its first reading on Thursday 6th March 2014 and referred to the Committee on Health and NOT to the Committee on Finance for detailed scrutiny. So there was no need for BATU in the first place to bribe the Committee on Finance.
• When the Committee on Finance was considering the tax measures to be introduced in the 2013/14 financial year, it proposed a tax on the tobacco leaf that was being produced in Bunyoro but being exported to Kenya for processing.
• The House noted during the debate on this matter, that the Committee had not interacted with BATU before coming up with such a decision. In concluding the debate, the Speaker directed the Committee to travel to Bunyoro to assess the activities of BATU in that region.
• The Bunyoro Kingdom had also petitioned the Speaker on sharing of royalties in the Public Finance Bill between the Government and the Kingdom. The Speaker of Parliament referred the petition to the committees, including the Committee on Finance, that were processing the Public Finance Bill and directed that the committees in question travel to Bunyoro and discuss the issue further with the Omukama.
• The Committees of Finance, Planning and Economic Development; Budget and that of Natural Resources therefore scheduled a visit to Bunyoro for the purpose of;
(i) Interacting with the Omukama on the details of his petition and;
(ii) Inspecting the BATU activities in Bunyoro in relation to economic empowerment of the local people.
• The above-mentioned committees in the first week of March 2014, conducted a two-days official tour of the Bunyoro region basing on those objectives. The first day of the tour involved meeting the Omukama of Bunyoro, while on the second day the MPs toured various projects in Bunyoro, which are supported by BATU Ltd and other stakeholders. A report of the trip is yet to be tabled in the plenary in Parliament.
It is evident from this background, therefore, that the objective of the trip to Bunyoro region was very clear and originated from the deliberations in Parliament and the instructions of the Speaker of Parliament and was not due to any other motives as implied by Dr. Lulume Bayigga. The respective media houses, which reported otherwise, are requested on the basis of this statement, to set the record straight.
Acting Director, Communications
Parliament of Uganda