President Yoweri Museveni has described the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) as one of the successes of the National Resistance Movement government.
“You are among the greatest heroes of this nation,” said Museveni, in a speech read for him by the Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda at the climax of URA’s Silver Jubilee celebrations at Nakawa, Kampala on Saturday night.
Museveni noted that revenue collections had risen from sh2.84 billion in 1986 to sh11,230.87 billion as at financial year 2015/2016. This represents a growth of over 6,000%. When URA was formed in 1991 revenue collection was sh133.79 billion.
“This validates the decision at the time to curve revenue collection out of the Ministry of Finance,” he said.
When URA was created in 1991, tax revenue as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was 6.83% but as at the end of financial year 2015/16, it stood at 12.78%. At the end of the last financial year, the revenue growth rate (net URA collections) stood at 8,295%. The annual revenue growth currently stands at 15% on average.
Museveni saluted the role played by URA in defending the natural resources of Uganda in both the local and international courts when they successfully defended and delivered victory in the Heritage Oil and Gas and Tullow tax cases.
The president also recognised the invaluable contributions of past Ministers of Finance including, Crispus Kiyonga, Jehoash Mayanja Nkanji Gerald Sendaula Dr. Ezra Suruma Syda Bumba Maria Kiwanuka and currently Hon. Matia Kasaija.
Past Board Chairpersons and their respective Board as well as past Commissioner Generals were also appreciated for laying the foundation and the building blocks of the URA we see today.
Commissioner General Doris Akol also hailed current and previous URA staff, the board and finance ministers for the successes that have resulted in rise in revenue collections and revenue growth since 1991.
Akol said Saturday was not only a day for celebration but also an opportunity to reflect on the progress made over the last 25 years and to lay down a marker for what needs to be achieved in the next 25 years and to take Uganda to a competitive middle income country.
“Middle Income Status is not just a cliché, it is a possibility that URA subscribes to and fully supports,” Akol said, as she outlined the reforms that will be taken to support government efforts.
Greatest tax payers of the past 25 years
The highlight Saturday was the 12th Tax Payers Appreciation awards, where URA recognized strategic partners and the best taxpayers who have shown improvement in voluntary tax compliance and who have most boosted the government coffers in the past 25 years.
Nile Breweries and Tororo Cement were singled out for contributing in excess of sh237 billion in taxes in 2015/16, and over sh1.9 trillion to government revenue since 1998 to June 2016. Century Bottling was also recognised for their contribution of over one trillion shillings worth of taxes. (Read URA: Nile Breweries greatest tax payer of last 25 years)
Strategic partners were also appreciated and the best strategic partnership awards in the past 25 years went to Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Uganda Bankers Association (UBA). Janat Nakayima of Kigo Estates and Jinja businessman Patel Babubhai were recognised as the star individual tax payers while The Inspectorate of Government IGG, TASO and Plan International were the institutions that showed greatest improvement in voluntary tax compliance.
Museveni congratulated the award winners saying ” I commend all Ugandans and especially the individual and corporate entities and taxpayers that have contributed to this revenue growth. I would like to, also, salute those businesses that are being rewarded today for their contribution over the last 25 years.”
Museveni said despite the achievements and performance, the nation has a lot to do in order to achieve competitive middle income status by 2020.
He said the URA is going to play a central role in this journey, and challenged them to grow the tax to GDP ratio to at least 20% from 12.78%.
“We must ensure as Government that we give URA every support needed to ensure that the tax to GDP ratio grows to at least 20%. We must ensure that barriers to trade, non-tariff barriers and bottlenecks that affect doing business for investments across sectors are totally eradicated.”
He challenged the URA to continue developing sound policies and systems that will support economic transformation by supporting investment and industrialization especially by ensuring investor confidence in your processes and systems and providing certainty to them.
He said the Government will on its part target social sectors that directly benefit the poor. “As a government, we have set ourselves very ambitious targets and we must deliver on them including zero tolerance to corruption.” He said the priority social sector would include: agriculture, infrastructure, energy, education, health care services and poverty reduction programmes.
“Government will continue to do everything within its power to ensure that Ugandans benefit from the increased revenue generated,” Museveni said, adding, “I want to assure Ugandans that the resources being raised from the taxes will be utilized efficiently and for the benefit of all citizens.”