Assembly approves series of public Bills |07 December 2022
After completing debate on the 2023 budget in committee stage on Friday, the National Assembly yesterday started considering amendments before approving several Public Bills associated with the Appropriation Bill 2023.
Vice-President Ahmed Afif yesterday presented the Excise Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2022, the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Fair Trading (Amendment) Bill, 2022 for National Assembly members’ consideration, debate and subsequent approval.
Excise tax Bill
The Bill was first presented to the National Assembly in June this year but as certain amendments were proposed, the Bill was withdrawn.
Vice-President Ahmed Afif was accompanied in the National Assembly by Charles Morin, trade consultant in the Ministry of Finance, National Planning and Trade; Paul Barrack, assistant commissioner for customs; among other concerned officials.
It is to be recalled that in his budget address for 2021 Minister Naadir Hassan announced that the government was going to undertake reforms in the tax system and introduce a new law.
“Following the amendments and more discussions, the new Bill being proposed to replace the Excise Tax Act 2009 is a more comprehensive one which is also more relevant to the modern business environment as well as being on par with international standards. The new Bill is also proposing a much simpler, practical and more efficient mechanism for the application of Excise Tax.
VP Afif reminded Assembly members that when he first presented the Bill in June, he highlighted that numerous deficiencies had been identified with the excise tax system.
“The government sought assistance from SADC Trade Related Facility to review and improve the tax system in place,” VP Afif said.
Among some of the deficiencies identified were;
- lack of control when it comes to the registration of imported raw material, production, storage and sale of excise products more particularly alcohol and cigarettes. As a result the SRC did not have access to information to reconcile the amount of raw material to the amount of finished products thus the SRC could not establish if the revenue being collected in terms of Excise Tax was the correct amount;
- the current law is not providing the necessary powers to custom officials to ensure that all necessary control is being applied and conditions followed at all times;
- lack of appropriate control with regard to excise products going through duty free shops.
“Through the new law, a complete system with emphasis on control through appropriate records, documentations and supervision will be put in place,” VP Afif said, noting that numerous new regulations have also been drafted to better support the new law which will help customs to better manage revenue collection in terms of commodities that attract Excise Tax and bring more transparency for businesses on their obligations and procedures they have to follow.
Following the debate with MNAs on the Bill, VP Afif noted that while the rate for Excise Tax has remained the same, the amount of money collected from the tax has increased over the years. He said in 2021 for instance it was R1.2 billion and it is estimated that this year will end with the collection of the sum R1.5 billion.
While the MNAs gave their unanimous approval to the general merit of the Bill, following discussions in committee stage, 22 of them voted for while three abstained when voting on the Bill as amended.
Proceeds of Crime Civil Confiscation (Amendment) Bill, 2022
Introducing the above Bill VP Afif noted that after it was first presented to the Assembly for consideration, debates ensued through the Bills Committee and as a result it was proposed that the Bill be more simplified but the essential issue in the final draft is to remove the definition of a Police under this law.
As per its object and reason the Bill seeks to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Civil Confiscation) Act, 2008 (Cap. 298) to;
- repeal the definition of “police officer”; insert a definition for “law enforcement officer”;
- insert a definition for “law enforcement agency”.
The repeal of the definition of “police officer” and the insertion of the definition of “law enforcement officer” seeks to remove the aspect of rank that the current definition indicates. The insertion of the definition “law enforcement agency” seeks to provide consistency between the Act, Cap 298, and the Anti Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act 2020.
“The police wanted to place more emphasis on the competence and not the rank of its officers,” VP Afif stressed.
During debate on the amendment the leader of the opposition, Sebastien Pillay, highlighted that the amendment shows that the government is interfering in the work of the police and that the intention of the government is not clear.
“If the law is working, why the need for the change? And I don’t see any merit for the amendment,” Hon. Pillay queried.
In his right of reply VP Afif explained that the government’s intention on the matter at hand has not changed and he went on to give a detail explanation on the matter to the MNAs.
Altogether 16 MNAs voted for to approve the general merit of the Bill while eight of them abstained. Following further discussions in committee stage the MNAs voted in the same manner to approve the Bill as amended.
VP Afif was assisted to answer MNAs questions on the Bill by deputy commissioner of Police Francis Songoire an FCIU and other concerned officials.
Fair Trading (Amendment) Bill, 2022
VP Afif, flanked by key officials from the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), presented the above Bill for Assembly consideration.
He remarked in his presentation that it was in May this year that the Fair Trading Bill was presented to the National Assembly but after the law came back to the Fair Trading it was found to contain several typos and omissions which the commission felt needed to be addressed.
A series of consultations was held with the Judiciary, the trade division and the Attorney General’s office following which VP Afif said the cabinet of ministers has approved for a series of new amendments to be presented to the Assembly for consideration.
VP Afif highlighted to Assembly members that the Bill is also being circulated to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as well as the Comesa (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa).
As per the object of the Bill, it seeks to; amend section 35 to provide for a provision that will enable the Commission to appoint officers of the Commission or such other person to appear on behalf of the Commission before the Tribunal or Court and conducting any matter before such Tribunal or Court.
The other amendments are to effect some minor corrections to other sections of the Act.
Twenty-two MNAs voted for to approve the general merit of the Bill while no one voted for and no one voted against.
Meanwhile following further discussions in committee stage, 23 MNAs voted for, no one voted against and no one abstained to approve the Bill as amended.
The National Assembly will today consider the Seychelles Pension Fund (Amendment) Bill, 2022.