BY NOUELLA ANASO
The task of collecting enough revenue for full service delivery and economic independence requires collaborations and partnership across a range of Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
Legislators are no exception. They are charged with approving policies, establishing legal and regulatory frameworks and the disbursement of funds for expenditure on national priorities. A section of them from the Finance and Economic Planning committee are currently on a five-day fact-finding mission tour of the URA customs border stations in the Northern and Southern regions in Uganda.
The committee is looking at among other things; border operations, challenges faced by URA staff in collecting revenue and progress on initiatives like the One Stop Border Post, Non-intrusive inspection, the Single Customs Territory and the Uganda Electronic Single Window.
According to John R. Musinguzi, the Commissioner General, the engagement with MPs is also intended for them to get first-hand experience of the struggles of URA to meet its targets.
“The mission of increasing our tax to GDP of funding our national budget and developing our country is not something that can be done by URA alone. We need your support and influence as you interact with electorate,” Mr. Musinguzi told the MPs.
With the changing face of cross border trade, Ibrahim Bbossa, the URA spokesperson hopes that Legislators will appreciate the need to double the human resource especially at these border points to wipe out vices like smuggling.
“It is essential to demonstrate to the legislators why URA needs to intensify intelligence-focused operations on commonly smuggled items like cigarettes and fuel that affect our market through revenue leakages,” Bbossa added.
The tour commenced on Friday visits to Elegu and Padea. They will wind up at Katuna, Kigamba, Ntula and Bugango customs stations.
MPs on the Finance Committee at Elegu One-stop Border Station
In response, the MPs are pleased with the visits as a way of not understanding URA operations but supporting Uganda improve its tax to GDP ratio. “It is a pleasure that you are offering us this opportunity and I remember during the URA Thanksgiving ceremony, the President was not happy with our low tax to GDP ratio which has remained static. We are also bothered by the issue of how we going to finance the budget and what revenue measures will help finance the budget without burdening the taxpayers,” Dr. Keefa Kiwanuka, the Committee Chairperson pondered.
For Avur Jane Pacutho, the Vice Chairperson of the Committee, the visit is an evidential tour to confirm if URA can grow her target from UGX 22 trillion to UGX 25.5 trillion. Reason: The budget estimate is now at UGX 43 trillion which implies that URA has to collect more.
“With this anticipated increase in target, we found it necessary to come on ground and find out the possibility of URA meeting this target,” Avur explained.
During the visits, it was discovered that some of impediments affecting trade facilitation were continuous traffic, porous borders that aid smuggling, limited human resource, accommodation, insecurity, poor road networks, limited social amenities like electricity and water supply among others.
The writer is a URA Media Officer