Connect with us

NEWS

MAN ON MISSION: HOW RUJOKI HAS TURNED URA UPSIDE DOWN IN SUCH A VERY SHORT TIME 

By Mulengera Reporters  

Since becoming URA Commissioner General early April 2020, Johnson Musinguzi Rujoki has distinguished himself as a ruthless tax collector and administrator who prefers to work behind the scenes as opposed to creating any form of personal visibility for himself. This is the reason why senior scribes from NBS and NTV, seeking to interview him, have many times walked away disappointed after failing to secure the desired exclusive interviews.

To know more about online services delivery by [KCCA], click here

He became CG at a time when Gen Museveni (his mentor from Rushere) had been complaining both publicly and in high level government meetings about a URA that was increasingly becoming inefficient and less productive than desired. He always refused to be excited about URA‘s lists of so-called top taxpayers.

President Museveni, who shocked many people by bringing in the introverted Rujoki who a lot of people were hearing about for the first time, would claim that much as such companies were being praised for paying billions, their actual tax obligations were often being understated by close to a half of what they are supposed to be paying.

Indeed, this partly explains why the veteran leader from Rwakitura was always harsh and unkind towards Rujoki‘s predecessor Doris Akol who was fired at a time her new contract as CG was supposed to be dawning. Now with Rujoki as CG, Museveni, who was sick and tired of Uganda’s GDP tax ratio stagnating at 12% for years, is optimistic the same will, by 2025, have grown to 25% or more.

Museveni always wondered why the country’s list of billionaires would keep growing every year without the same happening to the GDP tax ratio. In comparison, neighboring Kenya’s Revenue Authority is so well-performing that the country is able to fund its social services delivery requirements up to 95% using its own resources because of the impressive tax collections. Their GDP to tax ratio stands at 17% against Uganda’s which now stands at a mere 13%. Many of the sustainably developed economies have a higher GDP tax ratio, a situation Gen Museveni desires to see happen for Uganda.

As CG, it has been Rujoki‘s conviction that Uganda’s enhanced tax collection performance can be achieved through doing number of things including deepening tax education which will soon be grown into a fully-fledged department at URA as opposed to currently when it’s part of Public & Corporate Affairs department which Assistant Commissioner Ibrahim K Bbosa has been heading since joining URA about 6 months ago.

For all you need to know about 11th Parliament, click here https://www.parliament.go.ug/

Besides prioritizing tax education, Rujoki has also deeply invested in intelligence gathering the same being his background in State House under the tutorage of Gen YK Museveni who sources say remains satisfied with the job his blue eyed boy from Rushere has done at URA so far. In Rujoki‘s world, intelligence has meant URA top management deploying spies to unearth their own bribe-soliciting staff who connive with tax payers to evade tax obligations.

Recordings have sometimes had to be obtained to ensure that by the time management cracks the whip on such rogue-minded staff, a very good case, and evidence, has been built to ascertain one’s culpability. This is the reason why many such staff have opted to leave quietly once caught in such wrongdoing as opposed to raising dust or even commencing Judicial Review applications in court to oppose their termination.

Rujoki has also prioritized supporting the establishment and strengthening of the Tax Registry Expansion program which has obliged URA to collaborate more with partners (involved in business registration or formalization) like KCCA, Local Governments and Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB). The idea is to broaden and expand the country’s tax register which currently has only 2.4m registered taxpayers against another 7m eligible taxpayers who are engaged in some form of economic activity but paying nothing simply because they are engaged in informal business activities which aren’t registered anywhere.

The Rujoki-era amplification that has gone into the Tax Registry Expansion program has seen a total number of 600,000 new taxpayers being registered and enrolled into the taxpayers register since he took office. Efforts will continue in that direction because Rujoki‘s conviction is that the tax burden on a few compliant taxpayers will be diminished once the register is appropriately expanded so that the tax burden gets spread across.

Rujoki also inherited a URA which was hugely constrained in terms of having the appropriate staff numbers. He found only 2,700 staffers for the entire URA and he made it clear to the appointing authority and stakeholders like Parliament and his immediate supervisors at the Finance Ministry that there is no way performance and efficiency would be enhanced as long as URA staffing remained thinly spread out. The 2,700 he found in place was frequently contrasted with Kenyan Revenue Authority which has over 15,000 staffers dedicated to collecting taxes and tax educating the masses.

The consistency with which the Rujoki-era URA made their case about the staffing gaps moved Parliament to appropriate money to enlarge URA‘s wage bill. And it was with that enlarged resource envelope that URA has been able to recently recruit up to 600 additional staffers mostly of the supervisor rank and below. These are currently undergoing induction training in two groups one at UMI and another at Kyankwanzi. The training will last a total of 4 months and it’s expected that by the time they are through with it, the new recruits will be able to hit the ground running.

There will be another 114 new staffers to be recruited under the new FY2022/2023 because Parliament allocated the entity some money for that item. The 600 coming on board soon also comprise of the badly required legal, IT and audit highly specialized staffers to boost the existing crop of employees who have been fatally thin in those respective areas. For the officer level positions, priority went on those young men and women with very good CGPA grades fresh from their University training.

Rujoki has also been very deliberate about the Staff Integrity Program which is aimed at mindset change besides identifying and weeding out staffers and managers that were proved to be corrupt and rogue-minded. With funding from USAID/basically the US government, Rujoki right from day one intended to grow this into a fully-fledged division at the Nakawa-based URA and the results have since manifested in a multiplicity of ways including the Shs21.6trn which URA has been able to collect in the preceding FY2021/2022. The details of this performance, that was never expected by both the President and Rujoki‘s supervisors at the Finance Ministry, will be officially communicated to the public and stakeholders at a specially convened news conference slated for next week.

For all courses offered, click here  & on how to apply, click here

Even when this falls below the Shs22.4trn target which had been set (by about 800bn), President Museveni and Finance Ministry officials are buoyed by this for a number of reasons. One, the never-ending Covid19 pandemic and the subsequent war in Ukraine were expected to combine to complicate tax collection by URA. Secondly, even when it’s below the set target, the Shs21.6trn Rujoki will be reporting to the country soon is unprecedented and it’s simply the highest amount that has ever been collected since contemporary URA‘s inception in the 1990s.

Even when some are demoralized about the ruthlessness with which Rujoki has implemented his cleanup operations, the mood among URA staffers is buoyant about this unprecedented performance in tax collection (we mean Shs21.6trn being collected). In fact, it’s the reason some of the dedicated employees feel now is the right time for Rujoki to amplify the push for more remuneration cash being allocated to the tax body so that bonuses are paid out to each of the deserving employees besides increasing or enhancing staff salary across board.

Even when they are perceived to be among Uganda’s best paid employees, URA staff members are aggrieved with what they each earn. The lowest category of staff take home about Shs2m per month after all statutory obligations have been deducted. Seniors at the Assistant Commissioner level take home about Shs7m per month after statutory deductions. This is now considered too little and inadequate given the glaring need for staff to be shielded against temptations to be bribed by taxpayers seeking to diminish their liability.

Such staffers, clamoring for bonuses and higher pay, argue that even when the target of Shs22.4trn hasn’t been met, there is need for them to be gratified for the Shs21.6trn that has been collected inspite of Covid19 and the Ukrainian war. Rujoki‘s integrity interventions and things like lifestyle audit, aimed at ensuring the wealth staff own matches with their salary, have also squeezed out many employees who used to make a killing off corruption deals which are these days hard and next to impossible partly because of the aggressiveness with which Rujoki has embraced automation.

Rujoki‘s leadership style, which some have protested by quitting URA because they are simply unable to survive on mere salary, has also resulted into many employees being subjected to disciplinary proceedings. The result has been those found to be guilty to have their services terminated. For instance, late last year more than 30 employees had their services terminated after an internal investigation by the Disciplinary Committee implicated them in all manner of wrongdoing including trying to impersonate whistle blowers whose information enables URA unearth large companies trying to evade taxes.

In some cases, staff have been sanctioned for conniving to create fictitious whistle blowers who end up being entitled to 5% of the sum that URA recovers as a result of their whistle blowing. In some cases, whistle blowers have been murdered in suspicious circumstances and Rujoki has been decisive when it comes to investigating or even sanctioning his own staff suspected of blowing the cover of such whistle blowers. Late last year alone, 2 whistle blowers were murdered towards the conclusion of tax audit investigations the tax body had undertaken on the strength of their whistle blowing.

They had become entitled to a lot of money which they died before receiving because its payment to them was about to become due. This use of whistle blowers is something Rujoki exhibited great interest in during his very first month as URA CG. Under his encouragement and protection, a whistle blower volunteered information which resulted into one of the very big business entities in Uganda being compelled to vomit $10m which was due and payable but had successfully been concealed as the company filed its mandatory returns.

Then very recently, Rujoki’s intelligence network (which critics have likened to militarizing URA operations) resulted into the identification and apprehension of internal URA staff members who had successfully hid themselves behind a fictitious whistle blower and were on the verge of getting Shs10bn paid out to someone they had dubiously facilitated with tax audit information which he went ahead to volunteer or present to URA while holding himself out as an authentic whistle blower whereas not. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 0200900416 or email us at mulengeranews@gmail.com).

 

Comments

comments

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NEWS