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Judiciary acts on CAG proposals on tax appeal cases

The Judiciary has started implementing recommendations by the Controller and Auditor General (CAG), Professor Mussa Assad, regarding early disposal of tax appeal cases worth over 1.7 trillion/-, pending before tax appeals bodies and the Court of Appeal of Tanzania.

“We have decided to give these cases high priority to speed up their disposal as recommended by the CAG,” the Registrar of the Court of Appeal, Ms Catherine Revocati, told the ‘Daily News’ in Dar es Salaam in a short exclusive interview over the weekend.

She disclosed that in every cause list of cases that would be lined up for hearing, cases involving the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA) relating to tax matters would be included without missing. “We want these cases determined the earliest possible,” the Registrar said.

In his annual general report on the financial statements for the year ending June 30, 2014 presented before the National Assembly in Dodoma in May this year, the CAG disclosed that the pending cases were initiated by TRA, while others were filed by other parties against the Authority.

Prof Assad pointed out that the said cases were before Tax Revenue Appeals Tribunal, the Tax Revenue Appeals Board and the Court of Appeal.

According to available procedures, whoever is aggrieved by the assessment made by the TRA on tax is required first to file a complaint before the board, whose chairperson is a senior magistrate.

The decision of the board could be appealed against before the tribunal, whose chairperson is a judge of the High Court or any other person with qualification of being a judge of the High Court.

Thereafter, if a party is not satisfied by the decision of the tribunal the law requires him to take his case to the Court of Appeal where the Chief Justices composes a panel of three justices to determine the appeal.

In his report, the CAG pointed out that during the audit he noted that TRA has long outstanding cases before the appeals tax bodies and the Court of Appeal amounting to 1,716bn/-.

He stated that cases worth 261bn/- were stuck at the Court of Appeal and the remaining balance of cases whose value amounting to 1,455bn/- were before the tax appeals bodies.

Prof Assad pointed out that the potential tied up revenues on appeals is 10 per cent of the total revenue estimates and three per cent of the nominal GDP for the year 2013/2014.

He stated, therefore, that the value of taxes in dispute at the Tax Revenue Appeals Board and the Court of Appeal was high and cost the government resources to run cases for such a long time and, at times, loss of revenue when the appellants become bankrupt before their appeals are resolved.

The CAG, therefore, recommended that hearing of the cases should be expedited by the Court Systems. For a long lasting solution, he has proposed that the government should set up an independent complaint commission to expedite the handling of appeals.

In addition, the CAG recommended that the management of TRA should strengthen and improve the audit and investigation process to reduce tax disputes between the revenue authority and the taxpayers.

Source: Daily News

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Uganda: Supreme Court declares refund of bride price unconstitutional

KAMPALA - The Supreme Court has ruled that the refund of bride price by the woman’s parents or relatives upon a failed marriage is unconstitutional.

But the same court declined to declare that practice of demanding for payment of bride-price as a precondition for customary marriage as unconstitutional. This means that paying of bride price by the boy’s side to the parents of the girl is to continue.

 In a majority judgment of 6:1, Justice Jotham Tumwesigye who wrote the lead judgment observed that it’s unfair to demand a refund of bride price from the woman’s parents after years of marriage.

The judge added that it’s not likely that the parents of the woman would be keeping the property ready to refund.

“ I would declare that the custom and practice of demand for refund of bride price after the breakdown of a customary marriage is unconstitutional as it violates articles 31 (1) (b) and 31 (1). It should be accordingly be prohibited under articles 32 (2) of the Constitution,” ruled Justice Tumwesigye who wrote the lead judgment

Chief Justice Bart Katureebe who was among the six justices who agreed with Justice Tumwesigye, observed in his judgment that the refund of bride process connotes that the woman in the marriage was on some sort of a loan.

The Chief Justice added that even a sale, the cliché is that goods once sold cannot be returned or goods once used cannot be refunded and if that cannot be done in respect of common goods like  cattle among others, it cannot apply to women.

“This to me, refunding compromises the dignity of the women contrary to article 33 (1) of the Constitution,” held Chief Justice Katureebe

He said: “By six to one majority decision, the appeal partially succeeds. The custom of the refund of bride price is declared unconstitutional. The custom of refund of bride price is declared unconstitutional. Parties shall bear their own costs.”

The other justices who agreed with the lead judgment were; John Wilson Tsekooko,  Christine Kitumba, Benjamin Odoki and Galdino Okello. On the contrary, Justice Esther Kisaakye gave a dissenting judgment.

The judgment of the court arose from an appeal that Mifumi, a non governmental organization and 12 others lost before the Constitutional Court in 2010.

The Constitutional Court ruled that Mifumi had failed to prove that payment of bride-price causes domestic violence in families as claimed then.

In a majority judgment of 4:1, the Constitutional Court held that there are diverse causes of spousal abuse and that court could not say with certainty that bride-price is unconstitutional on that basis. 

Source: Daily Monitor Uganda.

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Tanzania: House passes changes to employment laws [the Employment and Labour Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2015]

The National Assembly on Monday unanimously endorsed the Employment and Labour Laws (Miscellaneous Amendments) Act 2015, which gives room for employees to choose whether to go on working or go on leave.

Winding up, Minister for Labour and Employment, Ms Gaudencia Kabaka, told the House that the Bill proposed to amend certain labour laws.

Among others, she said the proposed amendment sought to make it possible for an employer to obtain the consent of an employee for the forfeiture of his/her annual leave on certain conditions.

Ms Kabaka said the aim of the amendment was to enable the employer to obtain service from the employee even when he/she was on leave as long as the employee compromised his/her annual leave.

The amendment also gives room for the employee to choose whether she/he wishes to work or go on leave.

The amendments also propose the introduction of a new section in order to confer an over-riding effect to the Employment and Labour Relations Act, where there is conflict with any other written law regarding employment standards stipulated under the Employment and Labour Relations Act She further said that it was proposed to have only two national wage boards, one for public sector and the other for the private sector, so as to have a minimum set of wages, terms and conditions of employment, unlike in the past where there were several such boards.

“Under the proposed amendments the minister will be empowered to appoint Assistant Labour Commissioners who will assist the Labour Commissioner in the performance of his functions,” she said. It was also proposed to give labour officers additional powers to educate, oversee and implement labour laws, to conduct or scrutinize any election or ballot of any registered trade union or employers association by court order or at the request of a respective union or association.

She said that it was also proposed to amend the LAPF Pensions Act, Cap. 407 with a view to expressly providing for the granting of pension to members of the police, prison and fire and rescue forces who retire in accordance with the requirements of the laws governing their engagement.

This is to make it commensurate with the Public Service Retirement Benefits Act, Cap. 371 and will make LAPF Pensions Scheme equally competitive to other pension schemes.

Contributing earlier, Vice-Chairman of the Social Services Committee Albert Obama praised the government for making amendments aimed at improving the condition of employees in the country but said stakeholders had their reservations on the proposed amendment that will grant pension to police force, prison service and fire and rescue, saying it will go against the Social Security Regulatory Authority (SSRA).

Tabora Urban Lawmaker, Ismail Aden Rage (CCM), lauded the government for coming up with amendments, saying it will give room for workers to choose when they wanted to go on leave. However, Rage insisted that at a time when employee decides to forfeit leave he/she should be paid accordingly and in appropriate time.

Source: Daily News (8/7/2015)

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