What legacy does Doris Akol leave behind?

Having been at the helm of URA for five years, Doris Akol signed out last month.

What you need to know:

End of the road. On Sunday, March 29, Uganda woke up to the news of the sacking of Doris Akol, the former commissioner general of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA), after serving in the same position for five years and five months. Esther Oluka takes stock of her reign at the government revenue collection agency.

“By virtue of powers granted to me by the Constitution, I have appointed John Musinguzi Rujoki as the new commissioner general of URA. This appointment takes immediate effect,” President Museveni posted on his social media pages on Sunday, March 29.
On a chilly Sunday afternoon, the woman at the helm of the country’s revenue collection body was relieved of her duties just like that on Twitter.
“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to be your team leader for five years and five months. Thank you for loving me, for supporting me and for being loyal to me,” Doris Akol, the now former commissioner general of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) tweeted on Sunday, March 29.
Akol also welcomed John Musinguzi Rujoki’s appointment as the new URA boss. A man of many hats, Rujoki, is the board chairperson of the National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U) the Senior Presidential Advisor on Information and Communication Technology.
Akol’s sacking attracted mixed reactions from a cross section of the public with some critics saying it was long overdue as URA was grappling with numerous challenges including revenue collection shortages. In fact, there had been persistent rumours that the president was not happy with Akol for having failed to widen tax collection and to stamp out corruption.

Did Akol perform?
Uganda collects tax of about 14 per cent of GDP in revenue, which some analysts say is below the country’s tax collection potential. Analysts, however, say the blame cannot be entirely cast on the former commissioner general.
According to Dr Fred Muhumuza, an economist and lecturer at Makerere University says, in terms of performance, it is difficult to make judgement on what Akol was able or not able to do.
“I agree with people who say the targets were unrealistic. Besides, the economy sometimes would not grow as expected and then her targets would not be revised, which would worsen the short fall,” Muhumuza says.
On the issue of failing to stamp out corruption from URA, Muhumuza says it is a very big problem in Uganda, across all government agencies, and quite very difficult to tackle.
“It is not easy to fight corruption because one is working with systems and individuals and for some, you cannot sack them yourself as the boss because of the technicalities involved,” she says.
Muhumuza believes URA needs to make some internal reforms as a tactic to boost its performance. “It is not an individual but rather systematic blame and the earlier the authority looks at the problem from different angles, the better,” Muhumuza says.
Similarly, Ramathan Ggoobi, an economist and lecturer at Makerere University Business School (MUBS), says Akol has done an incredible job at URA.
“She took over office at a time when the country’s tax Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio was around 11 per cent and over the years, she has managed to improve that performance to nearly to 14 per cent of GDP, despite what was happening including tax distortions, which have been done in the law, hence, leaving a lot of leeway for people not to pay tax,” Ggoobi adds: “There has been a lot of leakage but she managed to collect the largest proportion of revenue Uganda has ever had.”
Notably, the country still lags behind in the tax collection effort and for this reason, Ggoobi believes the leadership has not been impressed. Studies show that despite innovations that URA came up with, a small percentage of Ugandans still pay taxes.
“The blame should not be put on Doris Akol or the administrators. I blame the policy makers at the ministry of finance and the President himself because many sectors that should be paying tax are being protected by both the law and policy,” he says.
For now, Ggoobi says he is waiting to see if the new leadership can change anything, given the structure of Uganda’s broadly informal sector, characterised by many hidden and untaxed entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, Godfrey Akena, the executive director of the East African School of Taxation (EAST), who worked in URA for eleven years before resigning in 2008, says people should cut Akol some slack about performance.
“The position comes with a lot of pressure and very high targets to meet. Sometimes, you end up becoming the sacrificial lamb when you fail to meet the expectations. You are blamed for things you cannot control,” Akena says.
Akena emphasises Akol is a principled lawyer who follows the law to the letter. “I was actually shocked when I heard that she had been fired. Akol performed exceptionally well even amidst a myriad of challenges,” he says.

Former URA commissioner general, Doris Akol, interacts wih Members of Parliament in 2017 .

Akol, a woman of integrity
During her reign at URA, a few colleagues reminisce their working relations with Akol. Patience Rubagumya, the URA Commissioner for Legal Services and Board Affairs, who has known Akol for 15 years, says she admired her enviable worth ethic.
“She was a woman and leader of integrity. During her tenure, there were hardly stories of her getting compromised in anyway,” Rubagumya says. From Akol, Rubagumya says she learnt the value of hardwork.
“She constantly urged us to push ourselves, to get out of our comfort zones and aim for excellence,’ she says. Most notably, Rubagumya says she admired the way Akol juggled family and work life. “When Doris was at work, she was fully dedicated to her office responsibilities and at the end of the day, she would head straight home to spend time with her family,” Rubagumya says, adding, “She always emphasised in meetings that as much as we must work, it was also very important we spent quality time with our loved ones.”
Another staff at URA, who preferred anonymity, says Akol had mastered the art of empowering her subordinates. “Doris is a phenomenal woman and a mentor. She taught us that work has to be done whether our supervisors are around or not. I learnt a lot of lessons from her by undertaking many assignments,” she says.

Akol’s other life
Akol, who always manages to keep love and family life out of the preying eyes of the media, has three children including a pair of twins who were born in September 2018.
When she was still the Commissioner General at URA, Akol spoke to Flair Magazine, a Feminine magazine affiliated to New Vision, giving insight of her family life. She spoke about her close relationship with God and the desire to see her children grow with the same spiritual values. Meanwhile, her husband is a practicing scientist working abroad.
Having served in URA in different capacities for 15 years, the latest announcement certainly seems to mark her official end at the tax authority. As she deliberates on her next move, Full Woman celebrates Akol for the indelible mark she has had on URA and her legacy will live on and inspire many.

Rising to the top
Akol was appointed as Commissioner General in October 2014 replacing Allen Kagina, who had served in the position for 10 years.
Prior to this appointment, she had been serving as the commissioner for legal and board affairs. Following Rujoki’s recent appointment by President Museveni as Akol’s replacement, she sent an email to staff, thanking them for the support through the years and at the same time urged them to render utmost support to their newly appointed boss.
She signed off by writing the struggle to liberate the country continues, a statement that raised eyebrows. A lawyer by profession, Akol was born in 1970. She holds a bachelor’s degree of Laws from Makerere University and a Postgraduate Diploma in law practice, from the Law Development Centre (LDC).
Akol has other qualifications to her name including a Diploma in Financial Management from the Uganda Management Institute as well as a Master’s degree in Law from Makerere University. She a second Masters of Law degree from McGill University in Canada.

Honors and Awards
Recipient of the 2018 African Women in Leadership Award awarded by the African Virtuous Women Awards for exemplary selfless services in projecting good leadership qualities in society.
African Leadership Magazine (ALM) Person of the year Public Service Excellence Award 2018.
Proud winner of the 2008 Ralph Bell Prize awarded to the best Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA) finalist who has completed their chosen syllabus and sits more than one paper in that intake.
Akol joined URA in 1995 as a legal officer and rose through the ranks. Between 2012 and 2014, She was the commissioner Legal Affairs and Board Matters. She also served as the tax body’s legal secretary. She was appointed Commissioner General in October 2014.