WHY URA CG AKOL WAS DOWNTOWN KAMPALA THIS WEDNESDAY MORNING
By Mulengera Reporters
URA Commissioner General Doris Akol was this Wednesday morning the unexpected visitor to members of the business community operating downtown Kampala. Accompanied by a huge team of journalists, URA and area LC1 officials, Akol surprised many traders who just saw her walk into their shops and respective places of work.
She would then engage them in spontaneous interactive interviews which she said was meant to collect feedback regarding what they, as taxpayers, consider to be areas that deserve improvement in the way URA serves them. Akol, who arrived a few minutes to 10am, started her day at the Ham Center-based URA offices. Next was the nearby DTB branch which Akol visited and handed a hamper to the bank manager. She said DTB deserved to be publicly appreciated because of all the commercial banks, it has played a very big role in creating convenience for the taxpayers to meet their URA-related obligations.
As she moved out of the building, heading downstairs, Akol was stopped by one of the trading community leaders who explained to her a range of grievances his members have against the tax administration regime as a whole. It was unplanned but this engagement with this particular business community leader cost Akol (who was to subsequently rush to the Finance Ministry for a meeting with Minister Matia Kasaija) more than 10 minutes. True to her character of being a keen listener, the URA Supremo keenly listened and actually encouraged the man to exhaustively share his concerns.
The long Akol procession (comprising of scribes, URA officials, her security entourage and area LC bosses) attracted curious onlookers and within a short time crowds began following her. She the kept entering shops and other work places at random before finishing at Bukoola Chemical Industries Ltd along Nakivubo Place (outside Park Yard market next to Owino). Bukoola deals in veterinary medicine products.
This was preceded by another stop over at a shop along Channel Street. At Bukoola, Akol (for more than 10 minutes) interacted with Manager Dr. Sarah Nalubowa. And by the time she was done, a large crowd of curious onlookers was eagerly waiting from outside ostensibly to share their feedback. Because she is always out conducting such tax education public meetings with traders not only in Kampala but in other townships, many easily recognized it was Akol the URA Supremo-but some few couldn’t readily tell which big person was attracting so much attention in their streets. Some initially thought it was Bobi Wine only to see the uniformed security personnel which implied this can’t be Bobi Wine but a government official.
On emerging out of Bukoola, Akol granted a brief media interview to reporters who had been closely following her and by the time she was done speaking to them, it was time for her next meeting. Mr. Kato Ssekabembe, a leader to one of the many traders’ associations downtown, forced his way through the crowd of journalists and approached Akol. “We only hear of your meetings with other sections of the business community but kindly get time and give us a day also. I have a large group of members who can potentially comply paying their taxes but only need sensitization. They have many questions to raise with you to get clarification and once they get the answers and get empowered with the relevant information, I’m sure they will voluntarily begin to pay their taxes without hesitation. Just get time for us and come. You will be surprised with the potential we have among us,” Kato said as other fellow leaders struggled for a chance to speak to Akol too.
The URA boss told reporters she had no regrets whatsoever as this clearly was time well spent and she looked forward to subsequent meetings when she will have adequate time to interact with more traders downtown. She said she realizes there is a lot that needs to be explained “just like there is a lot of feedback to be picked and acted upon by us as URA.” The traders’ leaders Mulengera News spoke to, including Micheal Kizito from nearby Owino market, saluted Akol for her efforts to demystify tax matters by leaving her office to personally go to the grassroot and get first hand information.
They suggested that next time the URA big lady comes around they get alerted in advance so that they organize their people to come and receive her in an even bigger way. “Today we weren’t aware about this visit and in my case, I rushed here after hearing from my people that some URA people were moving around the shops. In fact, we feared that they had come to close some of the commercial buildings in this area,” Kizito explained.
Ironically, taking advantage of Akol’s presence, some business operators reported to her service delivery-related matters that actually have nothing to do with URA-for example maltreatment by their landlords. To Akol, all this is indicative of the extent to which citizens are desperate to give feedback to public officials, a matter she said will adequately be responding specifically regarding those aspects that directly concern URA. (For comments on this story, call, text or whatsapp us on 0703164755 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org).