Coffee farmers and local exporters have the last laugh after the Ugandan Parliament voted to terminate the controversial deal that had given a single company exclusive rights to buy the country’s coffee.
After two-and a-half hours of a bipartisan debate, the House chaired by Speaker Anita Among adopted the Trade committee recommendation to have the deal the government signed with Uganda Vinci Coffee Limited terminated in public interest.
The House based their decision on mainly three major reasons; the deal contravened multiple sections of law; the company doesn’t have financial capacity to undertake the project, and lacks a valid investment license. The House heard that the company’s investment license issued in 2014 expired and was not renewed in 2019.
The lawmakers across the political spectrum also noted that the company linked to Italian investor Enrica Pinetti, who signed the controversial deal as a witness, doesn’t qualify for generous waivers.
In the deal, the government had waived all taxes including social security contributions for company employees; offered free land, water, electricity, monopoly for premium quality coffee and the powers to determine prices and limiting licensing of coffee exporters until the company meets its demand which is unlimited.
The MPs resolved that all these waivers were illegally and unlawfully granted by Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.
The House resolved that officials who committed government to such illegalities should be penalised as a deterrent mechanism to stop similar occurrence in future.
Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka accepted the House decision on the coffee deal and promised that the government would review the committee recommendations.
“I have read it and noted its contents. We have listened to the concerns. We have noted the concerns of Parliament and the people. We shall take the recommendations that have been given. We shall review them and report back to Parliament on the action taken,” Mr Kiryowa said.
Earlier, Speaker Among said she was disappointed by allegations that she had been “bribed or compromised” to keep the report away.
The Trade committee chairperson, Mr Mwine Mpaka indicated that whereas President Museveni was in complete agreement with most of the findings of the report, he was against the termination of the contract.
“ The President agreed with most of the issues raised by the committee but whoever emphasized that the biggest issue has been value addition,…and strongly recommended that a review of the agreement between Vinci and government of Uganda be done in not more three months as opposed to termination as termination could have reputational damage,” Mr Mpaka said.
The review proposal was however ignored, with the majority of the lawmakers insisting that it was a bad deal for the country.
For months, the coffee deal made headlines in the media, and triggered strenuous debate, pitting government against MPs, coffee farmers and local exporters.
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