Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) on Thursday marked 25 years since its formation, celebrating revenue growth of 6273% and a remarkable turnaround that now has them referred to as an employer of choice.
At a thanksgiving at their Nakawa headquarters, Commissioner General Doris Akol hailed the turnaround of URA’s image and performance, shown by Uganda’s tax collections growing from Shs180 billion in 1991/92 to Shs 11,230.87 trillion in 2015/16. Akol assured the nation that “we are firmly on course to achieving middle income status.”
Akol said URA has matured into an organization that is recognized on the continent and globally as a beacon of excellence in revenue services.
“The numerous benchmarking visits from sister revenue agencies both on the continent and beyond attest to the fact that URA has indeed become a model of best practice and innovation in revenue services,” said Akol.
In a prayer, she said “I know that the glory of the URA of tomorrow shall be greater than the former and that URA shall always remain blessed and highly favoured.”
“The numerous awards that we have been privileged to receive over the years like the International Award for excellent strategy execution from the Balanced Scorecard Institute and the ATAF Innovation award are just a drop in the vast ocean of blessings.”
Other than the revenue growth, Akol identified several successes, including what she called “amazing court successes that URA has registered over the years including the first ever oil and gas tax dispute-Heritage Oil and Gas.”
This she said, was the biggest by far in tax terms and showed the steadfast support given to URA by the Tax Appeals Tribunal.
Looking to the future, the commissioner general hailed the investment in a new headquarters block at Nakawa. The structure that will be the future home of URA will enable them to save thousands of dollars in rent.
Akol revealed that URA is now a preferred continental and global destination of choice to host numerous tax conferences. These include the launch of the African Tax Administration Forum (ATAF), hosting of the next World Customs Governance Council meeting in May 2017 and the launch of the ATAF Legal Counsel Network – a brain child of URA.
Internally, URA has transitioned from being a top heavy institution with 19 reporting layers in the structure, over 45 Management staff and about 2076 staff to a leaner flatter organisation with 7 reporting layers, 27 Management staff and just under 2438 staff.
Prayer for good use of taxes, testimonies
The multi-faith celebrations were graced by Rt Rev.Dr Hannington Mutebi and Sheikh Habib Luswabi and there were testimonies by William Kiganda, Florence Nakito and Joyce Musoke who have been at URA since its formation in 1991.
Bishop Mutebi hailed URA for faithfully collecting taxes, and called for a special prayer for those in government handed the money, to use it well. He said there were so many cases of misuse of revenue collected in government, thus watering down the efforts by URA.
Kiganda, who is now an assistant commissioner narrated the challenges they faced collecting taxes in cash, and communicating using radio calls. He said the work environment at URA has changed, corruption stamped out and management modernized with focus on customer engagement.
From manual cash based systems of revenue collections in 1991, URA has moved to revenue collections, processes and transactions being done by commercial banks, mobile money, internet based banking, and also with financial intermediaries like PayWay.
CG Akol hailed the staff, saying “each and every person gathered here today has played a vital role in this 25 year journey of URA. URA is only where it is today because of God’s goodness to us.”
The growth, she said, is best shown by the a transition from expatriate leadership to home grown leadership since the URA act was enacted in September 1991. Work started on September 15.
Akol also hailed Uganda’s taxpayers. “I thank the gallant taxpayers over the years that have faithfully and diligently paid their taxes promptly without whom this country would not be where it is today,” she said.
The month-long celebrations of the URA Silver Jubilee under the theme “25 years of building the nation” will climax on September 30 with a grand awards ceremony.
Activities included thank-you gestures to appreciate taxpayers for meeting their obligations, a Thanks-giving Day at Nakawa Headquarters on September 15, CSR day on September 20, a cocktail with big taxpayers September 23, a URA open exhibition September 26-30 and finally a grand award ceremony September 30 that is expected to be graced by President Yoweri Museveni.
Ministers since 1991
Dr. Crispus Kiyonga (1986-1992), Hon. Joash Mayanja Nkanji (1992-1998), Hon. Gerald Sendaula (1998-2005), Dr. Ezra Suruma (2005-2009), Hon. Syda Bumba (2009-2011), Hon. Maria Kiwanuka (2011-2015) and currently Hon. Matia Kasaija (2015 to date).
Board chairmen since 1991
URA becomes an employer of choice; led by the following Board Chairpersons; Prof. Sam Turyamuhika (1991-1997), Dr. Eric Adriko (1997-2004), Mr. Ibrahim Kabanda Kironde (2004-2010), Hon. Gerald Sendaula (2010-2016 July) and Dr. Simon Kagugube (2016 July to date).
Commissioner Generals since 1991
Dr. E. O. Larbi-Siaw (1991-1997), Mr. Elly Rwakakoko (1997-2001), the late Anebrit Aslund (2001-2004) and Mrs. Allen Kagina (2004-2014).