Lawmakers yesterday gave their preliminary nod to the bill on privileges and immunities for East African Community (EAC) workers.
The draft law was presented to the Lower House by the EAC affairs minister Valentine Rugwabiza, who succeeded in getting the MPs to back the relevance of the bill, pending further scrutiny at the House standing committee level.
This follows a deal to the effect between the five-nation bloc’s Heads of State in February 2015.
Rugwabiza told the MPs that the Bill would see persons employed in the services of the Community enjoy tax-free privileges, among other benefits.
“The ratification (by the Heads of State) was in line with international treaties and all member states are henceforth required to pass such legislation through their respective parliaments,” the minister explained.
She added: “We also have to understand that such decisions have an implication on the budgets since we are talking of tax exemptions for EAC staff.”
Citing an example of the Rwanda-based East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), Rugwabiza explained that the proposed law would see staff members at the commission enjoy tax exemptions on their assets and property, and systems of communication.
“This will be applicable to all EAC workers located in every member state, it means that Rwandans working in the other partner states will also receive similar incentives, including free working permits,” she added.
EASTECO was launched last year in November and seeks to promote and coordinate the development, management and application of science and technology across the EAC region.
Article 4 of the agreement seen by this newspaper states that partner states shall accord the Community, its premises, property and assets, wherever located, immunity from legal process, except in case where the Community has expressly waived its immunity.
“The premises, property and assets of the Community shall be inviolable and shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action,” reads part of the article, which also states that such immunities should be applied to Community’s archives and documents as well.
The bill will have to be further examined by the standing committee in charge of security, cooperation and foreign affairs.