Government makes U-turn on airtime scratch cards

Kenneth Kazibwe

Kenneth Kazibwe

, Business

Government has accepted to suspend the ban on sale of airtime scratch cards as had been ordered recently.

Last month, government phased out scratch cards and replaced by electronic airtime attracting an outcry by members of the public especially in rural areas.

On Thursday, Members of Parliament put to task the Minister for ICT and National Guidance Frank Tumwebaze to explain why government didn’t consult the public before phasing out the scratch cards.

“Our people are suffering because not all areas are covered with electricity and you are talking going Electronic. You are hurting our people. Why didn’t consult us or our people before making these decisions,”Rakai Woman MP Juliet Kinyamatama questioned the minister.

The legislators accused government of only looking at the side of telecom companies and making money but leaving out consumers who are the end users.

However, in response, Tumwebaze accepted that the phasing out of scratch cards should be gradual to lessen the inconveniences to people.

“We agreed a gradual phase out of scratch cards with intensified awareness. The major concern of MPs was on awareness. Telecom companies too have interest in making sure many people buy airtime. They can’t be for a measure that makes them lose. Certainly e-loading will in the long run benefit all,” Tumwebaze said later.

“We agree that there is a problem of accessibility of electronic airtime and there isn’t a need of forcefully banning scratch cards, but we will allow it to be phased out by the market forces of demand and supply.”

On July 31, all telecom companies phased out airtime scratch cards in favour of electronic airtime.
Tumwebaze recently defended the move to ban scratch cards saying it the decision had been made by cabinet in March as one of the ways to improve security and also reduce fake scratch cards

“The use of electronic recharge systems will protect the public against purchase of fake air time scratch cards intended to defraud unsuspecting members of the public,” Tumwebaze told parliament last month.

“Security agencies have in the past arrested a number of people defrauding members of the public through sale of fake air time scratch cards. I believe that using the e-recharge system, this problem will be completely eliminated.”

He explained that with the electronic airtime in place, it would make it easy to trace criminals in case of any crimes committed which according to Tumwebaze was not the case with scratch cards.

The minister also noted that the electronic airtime system would help reduce on waste from used scratch cards dumped by users.

“This system will reduce on the waste caused by the many scratch cards that are thrown into the environment,” he said.

“It will improve revenue assurance by Government, since with the electronic system, URA can determine the amount of Airtime sold by Telecom operators and agents and thus rule out any tax under declarations.”

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