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Parliament summons minister Kasaija, PS Ggoobi and controversial Italian investor Pinetti over coffee deal

Ministry of Finance PS Ramathan Ggoobi (PHOTO /Courtesy)

KAMPALA —The Parliamentary Committee on Trade, Tourism and Industry has summoned finance Minister Matia Kasaija, Italian investor, Enrica Pinneti and other actors involved in signing a calamitous coffee deal.

The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Among last week directed the committee to probe a controversial coffee agreement signed between Government and Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited (UVCC) owned by Pinneti whose investment reputation is being contested.

According to the agreement signed on 10th February by Finance Minister Kasaija and Pinneti on behalf of UVCC, the coffee company retains the exclusive right to buy all Uganda’s coffee.

However, the deal has been widely criticized with the Speaker of Parliament Among directing the Trade committee to investigate for public confidence.

“The issue of tax exemptions; there are so many people who have benefitted from tax exemptions, we want to understand the cost-benefit analysis, we need to understand who are these persons benefitting from the exemption and what is the criteria of giving the exemptions,” Among questioned.

Following the directive, Committee on Trade Chaired by Mbarara City South MP Mwine Mpaka issued a long list of stakeholders in the coffee sub sector who have been invited to appear before on April 25 and April 26, 2022 as investigations into coffee controversies kick-off.

These Include; the permanent secretary ministry Finance Ramathan Ggoobi; Uganda’s Attorney General Kiryowa Kiwanuka; Nsumikambi Mugambe; Minister of for Trade, Tourism Industry and Cooperatives Francis Mwebesa, Minister of Agriculture Frank Tumwebaze and the Solicitors General.

Other entities and Agencies include; Uganda Coffee Development Authority, Uganda Coffee Federation, Uganda Coffee Quality Traders’ Association, Uganda Coffee Traders’ Alliance among others.

Under the signed agreement, Pinetti’s Vinci coffee company is expected to construct an 80 Million US Dollar integrated coffee processing plant at Namanve Industrial Park and also market the finished coffee products in Europe and Middle East.

The agreement extends an array of incentives and concessions to the investor in a manner that has been widely criticized as monopolizing Uganda’s coffee business.

According to the document dated February 10, 2022, Ggoobi, the secretary to the Treasury signed on behalf of the government while Enrica Pinetti, an Italian investor and board chairperson of Uganda Vinci Coffee signed on behalf of the company.

Pinetti is the woman behind the stalled Lubowa hospital project.

Abed Bwanika, the Member of Parliament, Kimanya-Kabonera said that the agreement alienates Ugandans from the coffee business as it gives monopoly of purchase and export of coffee to only one organization.

Bwanika said that the company is also exempted from all taxes, given a special tariff as far as electricity is concerned and all these provisions violate the laws of Uganda.

He called on Parliament to prevail on the said agreement to protect coffee farmers.

“This document gives them power, that nobody will procure coffee unless this company gets the quota that they want. The provisions of the Coffee Act section 52 say that the Coffee Authority should be the one to come up with auction avenues where our coffee should be traded, but this agreement gives the company the right to determine the price,” Bwanika said.

Kazo County Member of Parliament, Hon. Dan Kimosho said that the same investor has failed to complete the International Specialized Hospital of Uganda in Lubowa.

He said Parliament and the Ministry of Health have failed to supervise the project.

“It has been very difficult for this Parliament to supervise works going on at Lubowa; we have been crying about medical tourism but I was shocked when I saw the Ministry of Finance entering in agreement with the same person that we are failing to supervise,” Kimosho said.

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