By HOMELAND MEDIA TEAM
The parliamentary Committee on Tourism, Trade and Industry has called upon the Inspector General of Government (IGG) to investigate the minister of State for Trade, Harriet Ntabazi for alleged abuse of office and corruption.
The committee recommended that the IGG carries out further investigations with the aim of prosecution of the minister and that the minister should take political responsibility for her actions.
In April this year, Ntabazi issued a directive to the Commissioner, Customs Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) where she directed the authority to stop clearing Value Added Tax (VAT) exempted rice imports at the borders.
This directive prompted rice traders, specifically the Kampala Rice Traders Association to petition Parliament to intervene, claiming this directive was unfair and repugnant.
In their petition, the traders decried Ntabazi’s directive to install the Rice Agribusiness Development Foundation (RADFO) as an apex body with autonomous powers to import rice, which the traders said was fleecing them and frustrating trade.
The matter was subsequently referred to Parliament.
While presenting the committee report during the plenary sitting on Wednesday, the committee chairperson, Mwine Mpaka said Ntabazi acted unfairly when she issued directives to URA to stop rice imports without giving rice traders a fair hearing.
He said that Ntabazi exceeded her powers and issued orders that have distorted trade order in the rice trade.
“The minister of State for Trade, Hon. Harriet Ntabazi’s actions tantamount to abuse of office, corruption, facilitating corrupt transactions with agents, bribery, influence peddling, conflict of interest which are all crimes provided for under the anti-corruption Act of 2009,” the committee report read in part.
“The minister irregularly and without lawful authority instituted RADFO as the apex body in the rice sub sector without involving the rice traders and associations. The actions of the minister are disruptive and do not encourage trade order in the rice trade.”
According to the committee, RADFO has been conniving with URA officials to fleece the rice importers of the Shs180,000 per ton which is exorbitant compared to Shs40,000 per ton that they used to pay before this new directive.
Ntabazi said 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 especially at the border.