Thursday April 10 2014

Auditor General‘s graft report unfair, says URA

By Yasiin Mugerwa

Uganda Revenue Authority officials have accused the Auditor General (AG) of “unfairness” in the 2013 report which reveals corruption at the tax authority, a claim the AG last night dismissed as “diversionary”.

URA assistant commissioner for compliance management Protazio Begumisa told the Daily Monitor this week that the tax collection body was not given a fair hearing because the Auditor General was “under pressure to beat the deadline”. He said this explains why some queries were not answered.

“If we had time to explain, the queries would have gone down,” Mr Begumisa said. “We had a meeting with the auditors and we requested for more time to explain the issues they had raised but this was not granted. We are here still waiting to engage them but before we get to that stage, you (Daily Monitor) already have the final report.”

He added: “Sometimes they (auditors) are under pressure to report because of the deadline and there is nothing we can do. We are going to have another battle with Parliament. But if we had the second meeting we had requested, all these queries would have been answered.”

But AG officials told the Daily Monitor yesterday that they stand by the report which they said was compiled after giving URA the opportunity to explain the audit queries raised about fraud, tax evasion and unexplained payments made by various ministries, departments and other agencies to ghost suppliers/ companies.

Speaking on behalf of the AG, Mr Casiano Okecha, the principal auditor attached to Parliament, said the URA’s protestations were “spurious”.
“All audits have entry and exit meetings.

At exit meetings, audit findings are presented, discussed and confirmed by the accounting officer,” Mr Okecha said. “Where satisfactory answers have not been provided, the issues are reported in the final report of the Auditor General. URA should tell you [Daily Monitor] whether they did not have exit meeting with the Auditor General,” he added.

Auditor General defence
The AG has reported that billions of shillings may have been lost to corruption around the tax authority.

The AG, who told the Daily Monitor yesterday that he stands by his findings, reports the uncovering of evidence of corruption at URA involving the loss of billions of shillings to tax evasion, fraud and unexplained payments made by ministries, departments to ghost suppliers.

However, Mr Begumisa told the Daily Monitor during a follow-up interview on Tuesday that the fraud on URA accounts involving more than Shs693.8 million was not committed by URA staff, and rejected the conclusion that the suppliers who benefitted from Shs12.9 billion were ghosts.

This newspaper yesterday published details of the annual report of the AG on URA accounts for 2012/13, indicating loopholes in tax administration. At an appropriate time, URA officials will appear before the Parliament Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises to explain the alleged misdeeds reported in the latest AG report.