The speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga has directed parliament's rules committee to investigate the minister of information, communication and technology, Frank Tumwebaze over what she called contempt of parliament.
In her communication to parliament this afternoon, Kadaga expressed dismay at a declaration by the minister that all unverified, un-validated and unregistered sim-cards wbe switched off by midnight today.
Yesterday parliament debated and unanimously voted to have the verification and validation exercise extended by a period of no more than one year.
However, addressing the media today, Tumwebaze said the telecoms have been directed to switch off unregistered and unverified sim-cards at midnight today as earlier scheduled.
Tumwebaze observed that the disconnection will affect all voice communications, implying that holders of unregistered cards will not be able to receive or make calls.
He added that the service for mobile money deposit will be partially active to allow a transition period for customers to either withdraw their balances or transfer them to registered sim-cards.
Tumwebaze added that while the switch off will disable voice communication on the affected sim cards, the exercise of verification will continue. Parliament had observed that it was inevitable to give Ugandans enough time to register and obtain national identity cards before sim-cards are switched off.
Following Tumwebaze’s declaration, Kadaga said the move to switch off unverified sim-cards is a total disregard, disrespect and contempt of parliament's resolution.
“Yesterday, this House debated and adopted a motion urging government to extend a deadline for registration, verification and validation exercise for subscriber identification module [SIM] cards in Uganda. The representatives of the people and the front bench largely agreed with this resolution”, Kadaga said.
"This is an affront to the people's representatives and the country and it's unacceptable and cannot go unchallenged."
Kadaga added that the executive had an opportunity to present their contrary arguments on the matter yesterday when parliament was debating the motion.
Kadaga who cited minister Tumwebaze for contempt of parliament under rule 211 of the rules of procedure, noted that she was presenting the matter to the rules committee. She directed that the minister is summoned to appear before the committee on Tuesday next week to explain himself.
“The minister should have had the courtesy of coming and presenting a statement to this House on this objection to the resolution made. You must be aware that Hon Tumwebaze is not a regular attendant of this House.
Indeed, ever since the issue of registration started, he has not had the courtesy to come to this House to brief the House and brief the country. He has not even understood, he does not give himself time to hear the difficulties people are going through their representatives. Honourable members am proposing to present this matter to the rules committee. Am citing him for contempt, honourable members we cannot accept disregard of people’s voices, their challenges and their problems. It is a high level of arrogance”, a furious Kadaga said.
Government chief whip Ruth Nankabirwa says that Tumwebaze has not disregarded parliament since he does not work on his own but on behalf of parliament. She cited a morning meeting chaired by the prime minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda which discussed the sim-card registration process that endorsed Tumwebaze's communication on unverified sim-cards.
“After yesterday, the leader of government business was informed of what parliament resolved. He called a meeting, a meeting of the relevant agencies and ministries. And what came out of that meeting is what Frank Tumwebaze informed the media today at around 11.30 or midday. The good thing is that he has been subjected to the committee, in essence he has been given an opportunity to explain. Tuesday will come and I know the leader of government business will explain and I know Frank will definitely explain to the committee…”, she said.