Decline in fish business hurts Pakwach local tax collections

Nang-nang fish. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • According to statistics, the district that used to generate Shs1.2 billion every financial year now collects Shs400 million. 

Pakwach District leaders are up in arms over a drastic drop in local revenue collections caused by the declining fish business.

Pakwach has for decades depended on revenue collection from the lucrative fishing activities on River Nile and Lake Albert.

However, since the UPDF’s Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU) started operations to curb illegal fishing activities on the two water bodies, the district has registered a decline in local revenue.

According to statistics, the district that used to generate Shs1.2 billion every financial year now collects Shs400 million. 

The district leaders say as a result of the operations on the water, many landing sites and markets have been closed.

The district chairperson, Mr Robert Omito Steen, said the fishing communities contribute about 60 percent of the total revenue collection.

“We cannot do maintenance or opening of community access roads, renovation of classroom blocks, and fencing of health facilities that are planned. These services are all affected by the local revenue drop because most fish markets are closed,” he told Monitor on Tuesday.

Ms Emma Kebirungi, a commissioner at the Local Government Finance Commission, said President Museveni should intervene in the matter.

The Local Government Commission an autonomous arm of government responsible for advising central and local governments on Financing Issues.

“Districts which are along the rivers and lakes are being affected negatively in revenue collections since most of the fishermen are pushed out of water for being non-compliant with recommended fishing gears. Some special considerations should be made because people are missing services,” Ms Kebirungi said.

Residents speak out
 A resident of Pakwach Town Council, Mr Alfred Onena, said the operations on lakes and rivers have also affected livelihoods.

“Our children cannot now afford to go to schools since fishing was the only activity that could generate income for us. The policy and the regulations need to be relaxed,” Mr Onena said.     

In response, the public relations officer for the Fisheries Protection Unit (FPU), Lt Leuben Ndifula, said: “It is the Fisheries department in the Ministry of Agriculture headed by the commissioner who determines the revenue loss due to the operations on both lakes and rivers.”

In 2019, Parliament recommended the suspension of operations on water bodies by the Fisheries Protection Unit over alleged violence and human rights abuses. But this has not been implemented.