NATIONAL Assembly yesterday approved a much-anticipated protocol on privileges and immunities of the East African Community granting the community a standardised tax holiday and immunity to its officials from civil process.
Tabling the protocol here on Friday, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, said the procedure now sets a benchmark for EAC member states on taxes and customs duties that were imposed by authorities to the community, properties and its assets.
“Now the Secretary-General is empowered to deliberate and sign the Headquarters Agreement with member state hosting the community,” he said.
“The partner state shall ensure that persons employed in the service of the community enjoy in the territory of each partner state treatment not less favourable than that accorded by the government to similar international organisations.” Prof Kabudi said currently, some partner states, Uganda in particular, charge value-added tax on employees in addition to land tax on community institutions unlike Tanzania that exercises a full-length tax exemption.
The protocol, however, extends the immunity to the employee’s dependants from immigration restriction alien registration and national service obligations.
Prof Kabudi was quick to announce however that the secretary-general can at any time scrap immunity of an official that in his/her opinion deems the immunity would impede the course of justice and where the waiver will not prejudice the interests of the community.
MP Salome Makamba (Special Seats—Chadema) presenting the shadow ministry’s opinion, called on the partner states to settle the pension dispute with former employees of the community that collapsed in 1977.
But Prof Kabudi explained that all workers were paid as per the agreement and that those who had filed petitions at the high court, referral and the EAC court of justice lost their petition.
According to the minister, there were two groups that had unsettled payments. The community paid over 117bn/- to the first group, however, the second group demanded 2.5trn/- that the three courts found baseless.
“Let me assure the parliament and the general public that there is no single former employee of the community whose pension was not settled,” the minister said.
Prosper Mbena (Morogoro Rural, CCM) presenting an opinion of the foreign affairs, defence and security committee, called on the parliament to ratify the procedure as part of strengthening regional integration.
He said the procedure would also improve relations and protection of community employees from getting in trouble over the kind of messages they convey.
“Envoys are not to be detained, even if they present an unpleasant message,” he said.