Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA) has revealed it intends to petition the constitutional court to challenge the recently passed Income Tax Amendment Bill that exempts MPs from paying income tax on their allowances.
And as part of the petition, KACITA plans to ask court to establish an independent body that will take away Parliament’s power to set its own salary and other emoluments.
KACITA chairman Everest Kayondo told The Sunrise that the move is aimed at MPs, whom he describes as irrational and selfish people that are bent on drying state coffers.
Without revealing the law firm they have hired, Kayondo says they are only waiting for courts to re-open next week for them to submit their plaint.
“We are going to ask the Court to order government to establish a board to assume the responsibility of determining salaries for all government workers in an equitable and transparent manner and in essence bar legislators from determining their own emoluments as and when they want,” Kayondo vowed.
Civil Society organizations have also vowed to sue government challenging the constitutionality of the exemption which they have condemned as unconstitutional for “turning legislators into a special group of citizens in Uganda,”
Renowned city lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuzi is one of the legal minds in support of the idea.
He told The Sunrise that apart from being the cry of the majority of Ugandans hurt by the MPs’ “evasion of tax,” it is after all the trend in many democracies around the world today including one of Uganda’s immediate neighbors Kenya.
“That has been the cry of many Ugandans and it is certainly the way to go because salary boards consider a number of factors before they arrive at salary structures of particular government institutions in a bid to avoid inequality” Rwakafuzi said.
According to KACITA’s welfare secretary Edris Mugisha, the move was partly sparked off by a recent statement in the Media by Rubanda County Member of Parliament (MP) Henry Musasizi threatening to rally other legislators to increase their emoluments in case the Civil Society organizations succeeded in blocking the income tax bill from being signed into law.
Musasizi had earlier been quoted by sections of the media saying that MPs were going to use their constitutional right to increase their emoluments in case their wish (to push the contentious amendment through) was not granted.
Article 85 (1) of the 1995 Constitution allows MPs to determine their emoluments
But even then, KACITA contends that article 93 (a) (i) of the Constitution restricts legislators from the contentious privilege.
Kayondo says: “Whereas Article 85 (1) of the Constitution allows MPs to determine their emoluments, article 93(a) (i) restricts Parliament from proceeding upon a bill and or a motion on financial matters especially on taxation unless the or bill is moved on behalf of government.”
Like other MPs, Musasizi is not bothered about the threat of court action to scrap their constitutional privilege to determine their own incomes.
“Those who are unhappy about our achievement and want to go to Court for whatever objectives they want to achieve, they are free to do so after all it is their right, much as I know there is nothing they can change,” Musasizi said.