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New policy to force religious leaders to account for collected offertory

Kampala, (UG):- Policymakers in government are fast-tracking a new policy that will among others make it mandatory for religious organisations to account for offertory or any contributions made by church members and other ceremonial functions.

The policy falls under the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity (DEI) in the Office of the President which embarked on the development of a National Policy for Religious and Faith Organizations (RFOs).

The draft policy, which is currently undergoing validation and final review, seeks to enhance collaboration between RFOs and the government- and to promote their full participation in enhancing social service delivery, economic development as well as accountability.

According to Mr Alex BOkello, the permanent secretary at the Directorate for Ethics and Integrity, the policy dictates that there should be transparency when dealing with public resources in prayer centres.

“The biggest confusion which has been going all over the country, is people think that a policy is a law. The policy just says let there be transparency in any religious institution. How you put that transparency measure in your institution is up to you,” Mr Okello clarified while meeting religious leaders from the Lango Sub-region in Lira City on Tuesday.

He added that the policy will not necessarily include taxing religious institutions, as it has been misinterpreted by some religious leaders.

“They (religious leaders) said we want to tax the money. No! We want those resources that believers give to be used properly. The government taxes taxable income. A giving in church or mosque is not an income. It is a developmental money,” he explained.

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Rev Canon Aaron Mwesigyedirector for Ethics and Religious Affairs at DEI, said the policy is meant to prepare religious leaders so that they can work together with the government for national development.

According to him, the ongoing validation is intended to make religious leaders own drafts before the policy is approved by the cabinet.

Rev Canon Mwesigye said the policy will put mechanisms that churches or mosques can use to proactively identify and deal with corrupt people.

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He denounced trends where apparent law offenders are usually arrested and bailed or handed bond to “become corrupt again.”

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