8 August 2012

Uganda: MPs, Minister Clash Over Old Computers

Legislators on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) committee on Tuesday clashed with the sector minister over the mooted review of the ban on importation of used computers into the country.

While interfacing with the ICT committee to defend his Ministry's budget projection for the year 2011/12, ICT Minister Nyombi Thembo drew the wrath of MPs when he revealed that a review of the ban on secondhand computers would be high on the ministry's agenda this financial year.

In his justification for the policy shift, Thembo said the current ban on used computers is unsustainable since it's affecting many sections of the society.

"We are getting complaints from faith based organizations and schools that used to import secondhand computers that the ban is grossly affecting their operations. The ban is across the board, but not all secondhand computers are that bad. Many of them are still of use," Thembo said, as he denied MPs charges that government is succumbing to pressure from the business community.

In a heated interface chaired by Vicent Bagire (Bunya West), Thembo tried to allay the fears of MPs with a proposal to institute rigorous parameters to be used in determining the quality of imported used computers.

However, MPs Bernard Atiku, Mariam Nalubega, James Kabajo, and James Balidawa excoriated the move saying it goes against government's policy on e-waste dumping.

"There is a need for cost benefit analysis on this issue. Why do you want to turn Uganda into a dumping ground for environmentally hazardous junk products?" a tough talking Kabajo asked the minister.

Balidawa said Uganda has no business reviewing the ban on secondhand computers if "it has no technology to recycle them."

In June 2009 the Ugandan Government passed the Financial Bill which prohibited the import of "used refrigerators, freezers, computers and television sets" from October 2009.

The background to the legislation was a concern that Uganda was not dealing properly with the issue of e-waste.

In an attempt to make computers affordable, government has since waived taxes on importation of new computers.

Despite the above intervention, however, importers, traders, suppliers and ICT-Education charitable organizations involved in refurbished computers have continued to register their disquiet about the ban.

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