Agriculture Minister Frank Tumwebaze was on Wednesday, April 13, 2022, a subject of ridicule on Twitter after claiming he has no knowledge of the coffee agreement signed between the government and Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited (UVCC) owned by controversial Italian investor Enrica Pinetti.
Tumwebaze had sent out a tweet, informing journalists that his ministry was not a party to the coffee agreement and hence they should not call him, seeking inquiries over the matter.
“A note to journalists calling me & seeking to know more about the coffee agreement recently signed between @GovUganda with one investor; be advised that neither myself nor @MAAIF_Uganda is a party/ privy to that agreement,” he said.
“It was signed on behalf of @GovUganda by @mofpedU. So i advise, that all queries regarding the same be directed to the ministry of finance (@mofpedU ) for correct information & reporting,” he added.
However, this drew condemnation from a section of public, with many wondering why such a deal can be signed without his knowledge as an agriculture minister yet coffee sub-sector falls under his docket.
Abraham Kakuru tweeted: “If MOFPED can sign such a contract when MAAIF is not aware, then we are headed for trouble! Qn. In whose interest is MoFPED signing this contract? I think Hon. @FrankTumwebazek, you have a duty to interrogate the contents of this agreement. Our farmers need to be protected.”
Sheema Municipality MP Dicksons Kateshumbwa tweeted: “That agreement violates the PFM Act and undermines economic liberalization. We have had a success story in the coffee sector and creating a monopoly without clear justification will have negative consequences on the sector.”
Dr. Allan Bomuhangi tweeted: “Thank you Frank for being honest with yourself. However that does not mean that we shouldn’t hold you accountable. The coffee sub-sector is directly under your supervision sir. Man up and give us your position as chief custodian of the ministry. Otherwise we appreciate your work.”
Sengo tweeted: As minister of Agriculture and Animal husbandry I’d be on the finance Ministry’s neck inquiring why they are making decisions that my ministry is mandated to make without my involvement. He seems relaxed about it though or powerless to ask the right questions.
According to the coffee deal, which was signed on February 10, 2022, Finance minister Matia Kasaija signed on behalf of government, while Ms Enrica Pinetti signed on behalf of Uganda Vinci Coffee Company Limited (UVCC).
Ramadhan Ggoobi, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance, also the secretary to the Treasury, and UVCC’s company secretary Moses Matovu, witnessed the signing.
Under the coffee deal, UVCC will enjoy exemption in regard to Import Duties, Value Added Tax, Excise Duty, Stamp Duty, Corporate Income Tax and employment-related taxes, as well as any other tax or imposition levied or charged under the laws or any other laws that may be enacted.
UVCC has already been given a huge chunk of land by the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) within Namanve Investment Park.
A 49-year lease agreement has also been signed with UVCC. The agreement, however, gives the company carte blanche to “use the land for all purposes it deems fit in relation to the project.”