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MPs turn away URA officials over UGX 100bn for digital stamps

FILE PHOTO: Budget Committee

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Members of the Budget Committee have turned away officials from the Uganda Revenue Authority-URA over failure to produce supportive documents for digital stamps.

The digital stamps are part of the additional budget proposed in financial year 2019/2020 that has been submitted to the budget committee.

The Committee chairperson, Amos Lugoloobi informed MPs that the within the additional budget, shillings 103 billion has been proposed for URA to implement digital stamps and e-tax system. He, however, asked URA Commissioner General Doris Akol to break down how the tax body will spend the proposed shillings 103 billion in 2019/2020 and what digital stamps really mean in tax collection.

Akol, however, told the committee that she got an invitation to appear the committee last evening and was unable to get the documents regarding digital stamps and e-tax system.

Her response irked MPs led by Dokolo Woman MP, Cecilia Ogwal who asked her whether Akol provided details for the shillings 103 billion to the finance committee for scrutiny. Akol asked for time to explain in vain.

When Ogwal was told that the extra budget or amendment to the 2019/2020 budget has been referred directly to the budget committee and not to sectoral committees for scrutiny, she insisted that the extra budget must be first tabled on the floor of parliament and processed as provided by the rules of procedure.

Lugoloobi tried to persuade Ogwal that he asked Akol and URA officials to appear before the committee and explain the need for the shillings 103 billion because the deputy Speaker Jacob Oulanyah has directed the budget committee to table its report with the estimates for the 2019/2020 national budget this Wednesday.  Parliament has to pass the national budget by May 31st.

West Budama North MP, Okoth Othieno tried to salvage the situation by explaining that the Ministry of Finance submitted the additional budget to the Clerk to Parliament and copied in the budget committee chairperson, which makes the corrigenda the property of parliament. However, Ogwal wondered why he is even a member of the budget committee if he cannot understand that the corrigenda is illegally before the committee

The finance committee chairperson, Henry Musasizi supports Ogwal’s position and that of several members of the budget committee that the corrigenda that include shillings 103 billion addition to the URA budget must be subjected to scrutiny by the finance committee and sectors affected.

Musasizi says that sector committee scrutiny is important because, in the case of URA, the finance committee did not find any information in the URA proposed work plan that mentions the need for digital stamps and the e-tax system.

Musasizi says that MPs are now acting in anticipation on the URA additional funds and yet the entire additional amounts to about 900 billion shillings but the budget committee cannot give details on which item have been included except URA because it has to laid on the floor of parliament and sent to the affected sectoral committees like Finance in the case of URA.

He adds that an addition of shillings 900 billion will mean that the entire national budget will be about shillings 40.3 trillion, up from the proposed shillings 39.4 trillion.

Last year, Ministry of finance tabled two amendments to the proposed national budget, including one in the month of May, when Parliament is expected to process the estimates and pass the national budget.

The initial total budget for 2018/2019 was shillings 30.9 trillion, after the first amendment, it increased to shillings 32.3 trillion and on May 9th another amendment was made to the national budget.

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