A PARLIAMENTARY commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo has recommended the government scrap an unpopular ‘phone tax’, saying it has not been able to trace the funds raised so far, according to a parliamentary report seen by Reuters.
The levy, introduced by the telecoms ministry last year, was aimed at raising funds for Congo’s telecoms regulator to be able to register mobile phones and other devices in a secured central registry.
After a hearing last week, the Congolese parliament’s budget and finance commission urged the government to ‘put a definitive end to the levy… the resources of which are not traced either in the general budget or in the special accounts,’ according to the report.
A government spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It was not clear whether the government would follow the commission’s recommendation. Congo’s telecoms minister has defended the levy in the past saying it was needed to remunerate the regulator for the secured central registry.
The government began charging $1.17 worth of tax in six instalments for prepaid mobile 3G and 4G phones last year, and $0.17 for 2G phones, raising the ire of Congolese consumers, and protests from opposition parties.
There are more than 41 million mobile phones connected in the Democratic Republic of Congo, government data shows.
Consumer associations and Congo’s opposition parties said the introduction of the levy, and the management of the millions of dollars raised so far, has been opaque.
A Congo Senate commission report said in October that 30 percent of the income generated by the levy would go to the private service provider recruited to implement the technical set up of the central registry, while 25 percent would go to the regulator, 40 percent to the government and 5 percent to telecom operators.
Joel Lamika, head of a national movement of Congolese consumers, welcomed the recommendations by the parliamentary commission, calling the tax ‘a vast state swindle organised to rob an already poor population.’