KAMPALA – Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) officials on Tuesday came under fire from taxpayers for allegedly demanding bribes to offer services that would otherwise be free.
During the Eastern Region Integrity Forum organised by URA in Jinja on Tuesday, the taxpayers demanded an explanation as to why they are being asked to pay in order to access URA services.
Mr Joel Kafuko, a Jinja-based businessman, said he was forced to pay for a Tax Identification Number. “I was told: ‘If you want it now, you pay Shs50,000. If not, it will delay for some time’,’’ he said.
Mr Samuel Tumwesigye, another taxpayer, said he was charged Shs20,000 for a Tin Number. “We pay taxes but how comes we are forced to pay a kickback for services we are supposed to get for free,’’ he wondered.
The Commissioner Internal Audit and Compliance in URA, Dr Protazio Begumisa, conceded that some URA officials are corrupt but blamed the taxpayers for ‘sometimes forcing them’ to accept bribes even when they have not sought them.
Dr Begumisa added that is embarrassing for a URA staff to be involvd in corruption because they are well paid.
“How can you take a bribe of Shs20,000 for a TIN which is supposed to be for free? We give these staff good salary, lunch and transport. If they behave that way, it is an embarrassment to the sector. Kindly report them and I will arrest them myself,’’ he said.
Dr Begumisa added that non-corrupt officials have high chances of being promoted compared to corrupt ones.
Last year, URA approved a proposal to subject all staff to a lifestyle audit where they study every staff’s standard of living to see if it is consistent with their income. This was aimed of safeguarding the integrity of the tax collector.
This followed allegations that some of its officials were using proceeds from tax fraud and related illegal activities to acquire unexplained wealth.
According to 2018 Transparency International Corruption Index report, Uganda is in the 149th most corrupt country out of 180 countries.
In East Africa, Uganda is the third most corrupt country, followed by Burundi and South Sudan, while Rwanda is the least corrupt, followed by Tanzania and Kenya.