A section of religious leaders has written to President Yoweri Museveni protesting the exemption of Members of Parliament from paying taxes.
In a letter dated May 5, 2016, clerics ask Museveni to sing the Income Tax (Amendment Bill, 2016) that would see MPs avoid taxes.
Here is the full letter:
RE: RELIGIOUS LEADERS VIEWS ON MPs’ TAX EXEMPTION (TAX AMENDMENT BILL, 2016)
“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17).
“All people are equal like the teeth of comb” (Hadith: Subul Salam p. 129)
Your Excellency, on behalf of the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda Council of Presidents, and the entire faith fraternity in the country, we wish to express our dissatisfaction with the conduct of our Members of Parliament who recently decided by themselves to pass the Income Tax (Amendment Bill, 2016) that exempts them from paying taxes on their allowances and emoluments.
We entreat you not to sign this Bill into law. First, it contravenes the spirit and principles of equality and social justice when a section of Ugandans decide to legislate laws that favour them at the expense of the rest of the public. Article 21(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (As amended 2006) states that, “All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law”.
Your Excellency, what is good for the goose is good for gander. Hence, our august House that is a cradle of national laws should not be used to undermine the cherished values of ‘equality’ and ‘social justice’ by crafting discriminatory legislations. These values are embodied in our Constitution and Holy Books.
The practice of paying taxes and the accruing social and economic benefits and merits predate the modern system of governance: “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (Mark 12:17). By comparison with other segments of the public, a Ugandan Member of Parliament is handsomely remunerated. This is vindicated by your wise counsel to the newly elected NRM MPs and their NRM-leaning Independent counterparts at Kyankwanzi in March 2016. During your interaction with them, you categorically stated that you do not intend to support a pay rise for the incoming Members of the 10th Parliament. Your position must have been informed by the stark economic realities of the country. Further, on a number of occasions, you and Parliament have resisted calls for salary increment from other sectors of the public namely; teachers/lecturers and health workers.
Your Excellency, judging from the recent 2014 National Census, the majority of the Ugandan populace are youths between the age of 18 and 35 years. About 80% of these youths are unemployed and they are a looming danger to the country’s security.
We acknowledge that Government is investing a sizeable portion of the national budget to alleviate youth unemployment and poverty. In this context, it would be plausible and pertinent to sink the 40-odd billion shillings tax arrears from MP’s allowances into the Youth Livelihood Programme and Skilling Uganda.
Empirical evidence demonstrates that about 400,000 youths graduate from universities, tertiary institutions and colleges of which only 8,000 are lucky to find formal employment. There is urgent need, therefore, to defuse this time-bomb by injecting more funds into youth programmes.
Your Excellency, recently Uganda lost the only radiotherapy machine at the Cancer Institute. We are delighted to note that government bought a replacement a few years ago, although it has not been delivered thanks to a missing bunker that will cost the nation 30 billion shillings to prepare.
There is no doubt that with the taxation of the MPs allowances, the country shall be in a position to install a new cancer machine at Mulago Hospital. Subsequent tax savings in successive years can buy more machines so that the treatment of cancer is decentralized to other regional referral hospitals.
Mr. President, the cancer patients at Mulago Hospital and in other parts of the country are our brothers and sisters. Therefore, there is no better way MPs can express their patriotism than by contributing their tax deductions to the purchase and/or installment of the new cancer machine(s).
We, therefore, pray you, Your Excellency, to take action cognizant of the common good which is the bedrock of patriotism.
His Grace, the Right Rev. Stanely Ntagali,
Archbishop Church of the Province of Uganda
Co-CHAIRPERSON, COUNCIL OF PRESIDENTS
INTER-RELIGIOUS COUNCIL OF UGANDA
Cc: Hon. Minister for the Presidency
Cc: The Principal Private Secretary to His Excellency the President
Cc: The Council of Presidents, Inter-Religious Council of Uganda
Cc: Msgr. Charles Kasibante, Vicar General Kampala Archdiocese and Chairperson, Inter-Religious Council of Uganda Board