MEMBERS of Parliament grilled Information, Communication Technology state minister, Nyombi Thembo over lack of a law to regulate mobile money services and safeguard clients’ money
By Joyce Namutebi
MEMBERS of Parliament grilled Information, Communication Technology (ICT) state minister, Nyombi Thembo over lack of a law to regulate mobile money services and safeguard clients’ money.
The members of the committee on ICT also questioned Nyombi on Thursday about lack of a communications tribunal, and yet, according to them, telephone companies operating in the country have a lot to answer.
The concerned law makers raised several concerns to do with mobile money services and pointed out that it is disheartening to see that up to now, there is no legal framework to streamline the service.
Central Bank Governor, Tumusiime Mutebile, had in a meeting with the ICT committee in February conceded that there was need for a law to streamline the bank’s supervisory role over mobile money services operated by telecom companies.
Currently, mobile money operations, an e-money financial service that has 18 million registered users in Uganda, has no clear law regulating it. BoU relies on its 2013 regulations about the business to keep tabs on it.
However, these regulations have no legal effect. According to the executive director of supervision at BoU, Justine Bagyenda, The Central Bank recently wrote to the Solicitor General, seeking legal opinion over the matter.
Committee chairperson, Vincent Bagiire said: “The national budget is Sh14 trillion. Mobile money attracts Sh13 trillion. We can’t have an industry equivalent to the national budget and you sit back.”
He sought to know what happens to people’s money in case a telecom company wound up.
He observed that regulation of mobile money is a shared responsibility between the ministry of ICT and that of finance, but that if the latter has failed to do its duty, the ministry of ICT should champion it.
‘We need a law on mobile money or electronic transaction to safeguard people’s money. We owe the country some action,” Bagiire said.
Buwekula MP, Anthony Ssemmuli wondered what happens when money is accidentally sent to the wrong recipient. “How do you retrieve it?” he asked.
He also noted that it is disturbing that up to now there is no communications tribunal and yet mobile phone users are losing a lot of money over unsolicited messages.
Nyombi Thembo led a team of senior officials of the ministry and associated agencies to defend their budget for 2015/16 and respond to queries raised on the policy statement.
He irritated MPs when he said that “when you send money to the wrong person you are likely not to get it back.”
Reacting to the minister’s response Buyaga MP, Barnabas Tinkasiimire reminded him that he committed himself to setting up the communications tribunal expeditiously, which he had not done.
Tinkasiimire challenged the minister saying, “How do you implement something soonest when it is not planned for the coming financial year,”
The minister said that as part of the operationalization of Uganda Communications Act 2013, the ministry had written to the Judicial Service Commission to identify the head of the tribunal and two other members.
Pressed further, Nyombi Thembo pledged that the tribunal would be in place by the end of the coming financial year.
The MPs challenged the minister to implement the national information security framework. “This should be the top priority of the sector. The country is technologically naked without cyber security,” Bagiire warned.
The MPs said that the data protection and privacy Bill was also long overdue.
MPs ask gov''t for law on mobile money