By Simon Abaho
President Yoweri Museveni has urged the management of Uganda Revenue Authority to eradicate corruption in the tax body and realize enough revenue to finance the country’s budget.
“The performance of the country’s revenue collection can be gauged by a universal yardstick, the GDP tax ratio. If our GDP is US$ 44 billion our budget now is 40 trillion. If you collect 20% of the GDP you get almost enough money to finance the budget,” the President said.
The President who was accompanied by the First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Janet Kataha Museveni was this afternoon the Chief Guest at the thanks giving ceremony organized by the Tax Body, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) that was celebrating her 30 years of existence.
The function that took place at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds was graced by religious leaders, former and current administrators of the tax body, among others.
The main celebrant at the service was the National Overseer, Association of Pentecostal and Evangelicals in Uganda Bishop Joshua Lwere and the guest speaker was the Bishop of South Ankole Diocese the Rt. Reverend Nathan Ahimbisibwe.
President Museveni pointed out that the revenue collected today of Shs.19trillion is far below the needed funds to finance the country’s budget, leading to the tendency of borrowing internally and externally.
He noted that the leakage is caused by those entrusted with the duty to diligently collect revenue that they divert to their pockets through corruption.
“We shall expose those who steal the money. If you are honest you have a clear way forward in your life. You hear that I am now 77years. I have gone through a lot of difficulties, but if you are working for God and the people! Therefore eradicate Judaism (corruption),” he said. He thanked all who wished him a happy birthday today as he made 77 years.
Mr. Museveni told the audience the background of Uganda Revenue Authority noting that from its inception the tax GDP was 4% that gradually moved to 10 % after some reorganization of the tax institution and has now stagnated between 11 and 13% due to embezzlement of revenue collections.
President Museveni noted that the hemorrhage in tax collection is mainly rampant at the border points where goods brought into the country are either under or falsely declared due to absence of scanners causing heavy losses in revenue collection.
“The problem with URA is arrogance. You try to guide them but they don’t act. Scanners or X-ray machines will eliminate smuggling of goods. Modern technology simplifies work but my people have been avoiding this technology for reasons best known to them,’ he said.
The President was however happy to learn that after his long struggle, the customs officials had finally acquired 39 scanners that will be used at border entry points.
The First Lady and Minister of Education and Sports Mrs. Janet Museveni in her dedication prayer thanked God for shepherding URA for the last 30 years, noting that the tax body stands today as one of the most effective institutions in the country.
“Today we have come to dedicate a fresh URA to you Lord. Help each of us to give to Ceaser what belongs to Ceaser and to God that belongs to God so that prosperity will reign in our nation,” she prayed.
Mrs. Museveni also prayed to the Lord to give the leadership of the nation in general and that of URA in particular the courage to fight and eradicate corruption in the country.
The Chairman Board of Directors URA Mr. Juma Kisaame told the congregation that the tax body had matured and is now ready to take on the new journey after the 30 years of existence, with zeal and dedication for a brighter future.
Mr. Kisaame thanked President Museveni and all the stakeholders as well as tax payers and development partners for the support accorded to them in the last 30 years.
The Commissioner-General of URA Mr. John Rujoki Musinguzi thanked President Museveni for establishing Uganda Revenue Authority and also appreciated the support by all taxpayers, stakeholders as well as the Ministry of Finance.
He also thanked all his predecessors for developing the institution. He vowed to have zero tolerance to corruption. He later called all the representatives of the senior management of the authority to take an oath of allegiance and diligent service to the taxpayers, the nation as well as zero tolerance to corruption.
The Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development Hon. Matia Kasaija who wished President Museveni a happy birthday noted that the country’s economy is improving despite the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He thanked all development partners for their support.
Earlier on arrival, the President and the First Lady Janet Museveni unveiled URA @30 Memorial Monument that was declared holy ground for the revolution of Uganda.