PARLIAMENT. Officials of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) have failed to explain circumstances under which 9,733 litres of impounded fuel disappeared in their custody.
The officials led by the Commissioner General, Ms Doris Akol, were appearing before the Parliamentary Committee on Commissions, Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) chaired by Kawempe South MP Mubarak Munyagwa.
The committee was scrutinising the Auditor General’s report for Financial Year 2013/14 where it emerged that impounded fuel belonging to Fuelex Company was 9,733 litres less upon release by URA.
According to the Auditor General’s report, URA seized 110,481 litres of petrol on May 30, 2006. The report adds that due taxes and penalties worth Shs93.9m were assessed and paid by the tax payer. But on the day of collecting the fuel, it was established that it was less.
Consequently, a sum of Shs63.3m was agreed and paid to the owner as compensation. The point of concern was that whereas taxes were collected at a rate of Shs850 per litre, compensation was at a higher rate of Shs6,508.72 per litre.
“The fuel lost was only 8.81 per cent of the original seized quantity as compared to the compensation of 67.46 per cent of the taxes collected. There was no documentary proof that the officials responsible for the loss were ever reprimanded. Failure to reprimand the responsible officers against such losses may continue to escalate the problem due to negligence,” the Auditor General’s report read in part.
Ms Akol told the committee that the loss was incurred during storage at a private depot.
But committee members, including Mr Ibrahim Kasozi (FDC, Makindye East) and Mr Paul Mwiru (FDC, Jinja East), tasked the officials to explain the circumstances under which the fuel went missing and the disparities in cost per litre.
The other URA officials present were Mr James Kisale, the then URA commissioner in-charge of enforcement, and Ms Agnes Nabwire, the assistant commissioner for customs.
“This particular matter, we are actually privileged to have the person who handled this matter [Mr Kisale]; I think he is better positioned to explain,” Ms Nabwire said. Before digging further into the testimonies, Mr Munyagwa cautioned the witnesses before hand.
“I want to ask our witnesses not to take this committee for granted, we have a huge backlog. Respect the committee,” he said.
Mr Kisale said the fuel was impounded on suspicion that it had been falsified to be destined for neighbouring DR Congo yet it was for use within Uganda.
He also said they erred when they failed to take measurements at customs in Malaba.
“ I am not comfortable with this conversation from James; I think he is trying to escape from his responsibility as the supervisor at the time…you impounded things, you don’t know what you impounded and you accepted the authority to pay what you didn’t ascertain…” wondered Mr Kasozi.
The MP advised that Shs63.3m that was paid as compensation should be recovered from Mr Kisale. Mr Munyagwa stressed: “James [Kisale], we can’t believe you; you can’t tell us that you are running URA like a market, you impound fuel and you don’t know how much it is.” He added: “A number of Ugandans out there are out of business because of errant officials within URA. We must investigate this fuel to its logical conclusion.”