Ms Allen Catherine Kagina is set to leave Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) after a decade as the commissioner general of the tax body.
Ms Kagina, a psychologist who became known as one of the premier tax administrators, yesterday announced she is leaving URA to join the private sector.
She is expected to confirm the news at an annual news conference today.
“My contract ends in October and I am going to retire,” Ms Kagina said.
“I have not yet decided where I am going, but I think I am going into private business. We have spent 10 years building capacity of staff at URA, I am sure there will be no problem replacing me. Government will be able to get a new commissioner general,” she said.
Although she is a graduate of psychology, her career in tax administration spans a period of more than two decades. Prior to becoming commissioner general, Ms Kagina was the Commissioner of Customs at URA from 2001 to 2004. She has addressed several International fora on matters of domestic resource mobilisation for developing countries and has led major reforms in URA, transforming it into a model public institution for developing countries.
The lawmakers who spoke to the Daily Monitor showered Ms Kagina with plaudits for her prudent reforms they said have led to higher revenue collections, allowing the government to increasingly fund its development plan - from about 50 per cent in 2004 to 81.8 per cent in the current financial year.
Big job in offing
News of Ms Kagina’s retirement however, oozed into growing speculation that she could be positioning herself for an equally juicy job in the country’s nascent oil sector.
Unconfirmed reports, however, indicated the appointing authority could replace her with a senior technocrat at URA. Others talked of Executive Director Kampala Capital City Authority, Ms Jennifer Musisi, as the preferred choice. Ms Musisi formerly worked at URA as commissioner legal and board affairs.
Appearing before the Finance Committee to present the URA budget for 2014/15, Ms Kagina was asked to clarify on media reports that she had unexpectedly opted to quit the job. To this, she said, “I am not quitting office. I am completing my contract which ends in October.”
While Ms Kagina indicated she would quit URA in October to join private business, when asked by journalists what exactly she intends to do in the event that the appointing authority decides to re-assign her, she grinned and said: “I am here to serve”.
On behalf of the Finance Committee, Mr Robert Kasule (Kyadondo North) who chairs the committee thanked Ms Kagina for leaving behind “a clean institution”. “If anything, Ms Kagina will be remembered as a strong woman who successfully fought corruption at URA and succeeded where others had failed and we are grateful,” Mr Kasule said.
“Before Ms Kagina went to URA, we were collecting 50 per cent of domestic revenue and now, we are at 80 per cent and the borrowing to finance the budget has drastically gone down. We are more or less self-reliant now, and all this is because of Ms Kagina’s hard work. We are going to miss her and we request that the new person the President appoints matches the standards she set.”
In the appointment of Ms Kagina ten years ago, the President hoped to clean URA. And the magic worked according to Information minister, Ms Rose Namayanja.
“Under the leadership of Ms Kagina, we have successfully cleaned URA and tax collections on a year to year basis have gone up,” Ms Namayanja said.
Some legislators however, insist that corruption continues to pervade the tax body.
Mr Reagan Okumu (Aswa County), Mr Theodore Ssekikubo (Lwemiyaga) and other legislators however, insisted that even with the revered performance of Ms Kagina, URA, like any other public bodies, is not corruption free.
“Ms Kagina has successfully reduced corruption at URA and initiated key reforms but has not wiped out corruption completely. We still have the rotten apples in the basket,” Mr Okumu said.
“The tax collections under Kagina have increased and there is no question about this but compliance is still a problem, there are people who are either under-paying taxes or not paying anything,” he added.
In March 2002 a commission of inquiry into corruption in the URA was appointed by the government in an effort to deal with corruption in the tax body. This inquiry was chaired by Justice Julia Ssebutinde, who had previously headed inquiries into corruption in the police force and the army. Judge Ssebutinde was assisted by two co-commissioners, Fawn Cousenes and Mr James Kahoza.
The Commission started its work in May 2002 and was expected to deliver its report and recommendations after 3-4 months. However, the inquiry took a much longer time than expected and was followed by political schemes, including an alleged assassination attempt on Judge Ssebutinde.
The much dreaded Ssebutinde Report was presented to the government in February 2004. As soon as she took office in 2004, Ms Kagina picked lessons from the corruption scandals and put in place a robust system that has helped to cleanse URA and safeguard public resources needed to deliver the services.
Allen kagina’s brief profile
Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General Allen Catherine Kagina is set to step down from the helm of the tax body after 10 years of service.
In an interview with the Daily Monitor yesterday, she described her time thus far as the head of the tax body as transformational.
She said: “It has been a transformation period and a time that has witnessed good changes.”
Ms Kagina, a psychologist, started her career in 1985, as a teaching assistant at Makerere University before relocating to the Office of the President in 1992.
She joined the tax body as a senior principal revenue officer till 1998.
Two years later, (in 2000) she was promoted to the rank of deputy commissioner - customs where she served until 2001. Three years later - in 2004, she was appointed the Commissioner General.
When she took over the mantle in 2004, she opened her account with a surplus. She collected Shs506 billion out of a collection target of Shs471billion. Save for the last two previous financial years, revenue collections have not only been growing but she has been also been developing structures to ease the collections.
“It’s no mean achievement to oversee revenue collection that was supporting budget by less than 30 per cent a decade ago to now 81percent. Ms Kagina deserves a pat on the back,” Prof Augustus Nuwagaba said when contacted yesterday.
The Private Sector Foundation (PSFU) Executive Director, Mr Gideon Badagawa, said: “visible transformation of URA started with Ms Kagina taking over the tax body wheel.”
He continued: “You cannot talk about the good things at URA - be it the tax administration or hitting the revenue collection targets without mentioning Ms Kagina, she has been a strong pillar of the transformation that the tax agency has undergone. She will be missed dearly.”
Kampala City Traders Association chairman Everest Kayondo said despite hate-love relationship with URA, Ms Kagina has been an exemplary leader. He said: “No matter what she would listen to our grievances and try to help. And that is how we managed to sort out smuggling.”
Because of her progressive leadership, her contract was renewed twice in the last ten years.
However, this time she said she is not looking at bouncing back no matter the amount of persuasion. “I am leaving behind an excellent team. And any one of them can ably lead the institution without any trouble.
“And I will really love it if whoever replaces me is chosen from within. There is no need to pick someone from outside who will need to go through another session of the learning curve. People from within (URA) know the organisation and they will just go on with the work.”
Kagina’s possible replacements
Mr Protazio Begumisa. He is currently URA’s Commissioner for Internal Audit and Compliance. He has risen through the ranks and has been around to not only witness the institution’s transformation but played a part as well in changing the face of URA.
Richard Kamajugo. He is the Commissioner Customs and one of the longest serving commissioners at the body. He has also risen through the ranks to the position of full commissioner for taxes. He is known for being a tough negotiator.
Henry Saka. He is the commissioner domestic taxes. Although he took up that position recently but his commitment is unrivalled.
Gen Kale Kayihura. He is the current Inspector General of Police. He is a lawyer and trained soldier. He previously served as head of the Anti-smuggling unit.
Jennifer Musisi. She is the current Executive Director KCCA. She worked as company secretary for URA before joining KCCA.