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COSASE cancels meeting amidst URA audit backlog

FILE PHOTO: COSASE

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Despite resuming the review of the audited accounts of Uganda Revenue Authority-URA on Thursday, the Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises-COSASE still has a huge task ahead.

The Committee has to review the URA audited accounts for the 2013/2014, 2014/2015, 2015/2016, 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 financial years. On Tuesday, the COSASE chairperson, Mubarak Munyagwa informed colleagues that the committee should aim at handling all the URA audit reports this week.

The committee has however, only held two of the four planned meetings with URA. A scheduled meeting for Wednesday was cancelled because the Committee Chairperson, Munyagwa was away while his Vice Chairperson, Ibrahim Kasozi is chairing the subcommittee probing issues related to properties of departed Asians.

The meeting for the previous day adjourned prematurely after the members accused the URA Commissioner General, Doris Akol of giving arrogant responses to complaints of unfair taxation from some MPs. The Committee members resolved to adjourn the meeting, saying Akol had become a hostile witness.

Akol and her delegation had only responded to six audit queries relating to the 2014/2015 financial audit report by the time the meeting was adjourned. This left 8 queries including one on uncollected tax arrears amounting to Shillings 315 billion in 2014, a 16 percent increase from Shillings 188 billion recorded in 2013 and Shillings 120 billion in 2012.

URA management explained that with the passage of time, the tax body was unable to collect such arrears because it couldn’t trace some of the entities or individuals. However, tax collection has been automated to easy challenges relating collection.

On resumption of the Committee meeting Thursday, URA officials led by Akol had to respond to the remaining 100 audit queries from the five audit reports contained in 152 pages. However, the Committee is unlikely to handle even half of the remaining queries in today’s meeting.  By the time of filing this story, the committee had only handled 4 out of the remaining 8 queries on the 2014/2015 financial year in one and half hours relating to tax evasion and outstanding tax arrears among others.

URA is yet to respond to 30 queries from the 2015/2016 financial year, 17 queries in 2016/2017 and 12 queries in 2017/2018 financial years. According to the rules of procedure, accountability committees including COSASE are expected to handle the report of the Auditor General within six months from the time it is presented to Parliament.

These reports are usually presented to Parliament every in December or January. The committees present a report on the Auditor General’s report with recommendations. Government then responds to the accountability committee reports through Treasury Memorandum, which must include actions taken against individuals found culpable to loss of public funds.

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