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Mafias Hatch Plan to Oust John Musinguzi Rujooki at URA

By Wadada Rogers

On 29th    March, 2020, President Museveni appointed John Musinguzi Rujoki  as the  new Commissioner General(CG) of the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) replacing Dorris Akol.

 The position of Commissioner General is a four-year renewable contract. It is public knowledge that John Musinguzi’s four-year contract is expected to expire on 1st  April, 2024 and must be renewed atleast  three months before its expiry if he is to retain the position.

This in effect means that whoever is using the media to portray the current Commissioner General as a bad leader want to discredit him as the worst thing that has ever happened to URA.

So far, they have unsuccessfully blamed the low tax collections and rampant resignation at the tax body on Musinguzi who inherited an institution threaded with corruption. The mafias want Musinguzi to look like an incompetent administrator whose contract should not be renewed.

Sadly, some of the people fighting Musinguzi are within the institution, some are at the ministry of finance, others at bank of Uganda and the majority are large taxpayers working with the mafia network whose leadership remains elusive. A mafia is and has always been a network of

very powerful people within the government who specialize in manipulation, slandering, badmouthing and blackmail to achieve a selfish end in exchange for a commission.

One of the reasons why Rujoki is receiving a lot of resistance is that he came to URA with a mission to clean the institution and in so doing stepped on some toes. I do not think the commissioners who survived Museveni’s knife were happy with the President’s choice since some thought they were crown heirs in the succession queue in which Rujoki jumped.

Before Musinguzi assumed office, large taxpayers were having a good time as many would import goods disguised as belonging to state house or were for charitable organisations like the

UN or the Uganda Red Cross the Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) among others. Some of these would import goods as if they were destined to Congo or Sudan and then would divert them with the help of well connected URA staff to their premises.

The consignments would then be cleared at the border as if they had exited; Musinguzi thwarted all these tricks using technology and an undercover spy network.

Infact Musinguzi reportedly deployed some SFC boys and girls in several departments including the cleaning services who give them information regularly, something that could have led  his tormentors to swart out a deal for his downfall and exit from the tax body.

Then there was another group of people who were dealing in both fake and genuine gold. Given their syndicate, it was hard to detect their activities until Rujoki assumed office.

 These were dodging taxes yet they were earning big from the trade. Within time, they were ordered to pay

taxes according to the scale set by URA hence increasing the tax base. Even those who were initially benefitting from unfair exemptions found it had to remain afloat.

These are some of the reasons why there was a massive reshuffle at URA. If it is true that there was rampant corruption at the tax body as Museveni put it “I sacked a crowd of corrupt commissioners at URA”, then it is obvious that some remnants remained behind after some commissioners were fired.

Besides, John Musinguzi came from

outside the inner circles of URA and hit targets in the first year hence exposing loopholes in the former administration.

It goes without saying that this was an indictment on the heads of the former staff at top management hence the need to put up a fight.

Then somebody was asking a question that I found stupid, he was wondering why many of the staff members were resigning their positions. Is resigning news, has the institution claimed they are short of manpower or somebody is trying to pull a tribal card that some people are being witch hunted because of where they come from?

What are the reasons why the over 60 plus employees threw in the towel in a short period of time?

Were the employees forced to resign, did the resignation have a bearing on greener pastures or it was anticipatory that they were about to be fired. Could it have had a bearing on failing to hit targets or it was due to incompetence. What if it was due to insubordination?

Would a CEO of such a huge institution tolerate none performing employees or some people thought they were

untouchable. How about if they were being investigated quietly for corruption?

I am privy to information that some of the people who recently resigned had realised that the Commissioner General had secretly deployed spies in every department of the tax body. Many of

The cleaners, tea girls, receptions, secretaries, office messengers and drivers were top notch well trained SFC soldiers operating in a clandestine manner to gather information. This had created a

A lot of fear is that those who were previously relying on bribes, found themselves taking home only their monthly salaries and opted to quit.

Before being appointed Commissioner General, Museveni’s blue-eyed boys obviously did a background check on John Musinguzi. They must have traced his unimpeachable character from all the offices he once occupied.

Those who know Rujoki will tell you he is a eye on man, kind, tolerant, committed to his work and very patient but a very strict manager. He also believes in policing employees but expects them to work under minimal supervision.

Before I could come up with this writing, I had read several social media posts and indeed articles that were targeting the Commissioner General. The little I have known about him, Rujoki

is not a man of the camera but his work speaks for itself. Apart from seeing him in the newspapers and Television, I must confess I do not know the man and I don’t want to know him.

Am simply concerned when a patriotic Ugandan is framed by self seekers who think they should always have their way around everything.

The readers may recall that Musinguzi assumed office at a time when Uganda had just announced its first case of the covid 19 contagion. Fearing for the worst, the Government had earlier taken a stand on the 25th    March to halt public and private transport which in effect meant

there was no movement of both persons and goods. That means Musinguzi assumed office at a time when there was an economic surge but miraculously managed to hit targets that partly can

be attributed to his predecessor in title.

In the same period, the President announced a 14-day nationwide lockdown from April 1, 2020

to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. Under that restriction, movement of people by private vehicles was prohibited, just a day after John Rujoki Musinguzi had been appointed.

This would be the trend for the months that followed yet the government expected taxes from people

who were not earning and or moving about until August, 2021. Since then the economy has not recovered yet the government expects the tax body headed by Rujoki to collect taxes.

If indeed John Rujoki Musinguzi is incompetent as the haters want us to believe, why was he recognized as Africa’s Patriotic Personality of the Year by the League of African Development

Students? Was this recognition accidental or it was stage managed, how come none of the former commissioners got it. Musinguzi was particularly praised for exhibiting commendable strategic

leadership geared towards uplifting and maintaining the economy. He was also appreciated for his commitment towards getting Uganda out of the foreign dependency syndrome through

efficient collection of sufficient taxes to sustain the economy.

Almost four years after Musinguzi assumed office, the economy of Uganda is still struggling financially, especially the service sector from which the government used to get revenue. It is not the duty of URA to improve the economy; it is the Ministry of Finance to carry out planned

allocations of the available resources in order for the citizens to have money from which the tax body will demand for its share in the form of taxes. If the economy is struggling, then you also expect the taxpayer to find difficulties in paying taxes to URA.

If indeed it is true that the Commissioner General has failed in his work, was it necessary for the Ministry of Finance to write him a letter and expose the same to the public. Since when did official government correspondences become public if the intention was not to embarrass the person of Rujoki before the public and the appointing authority?

To you Mr President, I want to remind you of an old Kinyankole saying that nobody throws stones at a tree unless it carries with it succulent fruits. That is exactly what the mafias in your government are doing to your cadre Musinguzi. They either want to cajole or push him out so

that they can have a commissioner General capable of being threatened so that the large tax payers can import goods by paying very little or without paying what belongs to Caesar.

Surely with a damaged economy, it is absurd for Ramathan Ggoobi to expect a collection of 29 plus trillion shillings in taxes. I know there are some gaps but that figure is a dream that may

never come to pass. The economy is doing so badly to the extent that many businesses are closing down or are being foreclosed for lack of financial stability. If business closes, where will URA collect the much-desired taxes to sustain the economy.

I also want to remind the readers that the failure to hit targets is not peculiar to the current Commissioner General’s team. According to statistics obtained from Tax Justice Alliance Uganda, a coalition of NGOs fighting for an equitable tax regime in the country, URA has not been meeting its targets for almost 10years in a row for obvious known reasons.

SEATINI Uganda, a member of the alliance, says the main hindrance affecting collections is the low capacity in terms of resources available to the tax body, which has restricted it to manning just one-fifth of the border points of the country, causing a major tax leak. The other challenge is the inability of the tax body’s personnel to cope with the growing digital economy which needs more qualified personnel, as well as collaboration with other government agencies to enforce

against tax fraud and evasion especially by large taxpayers and multinationals.

That notwithstanding, I do not think Ramathan Ggoobi is being unfair to write such an insensitive letter and allowing the same to be exposed to the public. I personally do not see the reason why

Some URA staff would want to celebrate the contents of the letter, because a finger pointed at Rujoki is a finger pointed at the commissioners of URA and all the employees, theirs is a collective responsibility that cannot be placed entirely on the head of the CEO alone.

If I were Ggoobi, I would be celebrating the achievements of URA and I would be encouraging them to work harder other than working with negative forces to discredit Rujoki. Despite their shortcomings, the tax body has steadily maintained revenue growth over the years, with the current levels at about 26 trillion Shillings from about 700 billion when it was formed three decades ago.  A case in point is the last financial year where URA exceeded its target by about

58 billion Shillings. Certainly, the collections would have been better if URA could navigate the problem of a large informal sector that is hard to tax.

For a long time, the URA has been begging the government for funds in vain. According to Tax Justice Strategy for Uganda, a plan aimed at helping the advocates achieve their goal of a just tax system for all, URA has failed to increase the number of tax personnel to reduce the tax officer-to-

taxpayer ratio meaning the officials are too stretched to ably and efficiently perform their roles.

Lastly, I wish to remind the President of an incident when URA was celebrating 30 years of existence. On that day while at Kololo ceremonial grounds, somebody appeared to read a report where the GDP to tax ratio was exaggerated beyond measure. Agitated by the contradiction,

Museveni deliberately called upon one of the commissioners to provide correct figures cumulatively from the time NRM came into power. After reading the right report with the right figures, she also quit URA and joined the Bank of Uganda for her own safety.

The above speaks volumes about what goes on behind the scenes. A look at Ggoobi letter, one is able to tell it was premeditated. How inept can the Permanent Secretary Finance be to write a

letter on a range of issues and then expect a report 5 days later? An in-depth analysis of the letter creates the impression it had been written three months earlier when the number of employees who had resigned was 51 but only updated and delivered on December 7th  , 2023 when the number had shot up to 68 staff. Why the lapse in information flow.

Without providing the basis of his claim, somebody has claimed that URA under Rujoki made a shortfall of 600 billion and that the figure is bound to go up to 1 trillion come the next quarter.

Armed with these allegations, Rujoki is said to have convened a top management meeting in which he appointed a committee to generate a response in the form of a report before the deadline of December 12th  and 13th  2023.

The report was never formulated meaning Rujoki could have failed to meet the Top management of the Ministry of Finance to which according to his tormentors scored by alleging that he undermined his bosses who supervises him.

Having hit his targets twice, Rujoki is an unsung hero. The failures on the part of the Bank of Uganda which has no substantive governor to control inflation in the country should not be visited on URA. Each institution must play its part.

Inflation alone affects cash flow and when

there is no cash in the economy, it affects tax collection. If the Ministry of Finance fails in its role to allocate resources optimally and for the bank of Uganda to stabilize the economy, no one should expect URA to collect taxes from an impoverished population.

The President should not listen to naysayers on Rujoki, for they don’t wish his government well and could be working with negative forces to make Uganda appear a failed state. Am not saying

Rujoki is a perfect piece but he has proved a good administrator. Let those who have resigned go, there are many qualified and able Ugandans to take up these jobs. As for taxes, the President needs to reorganize the Bank of Uganda and the Ministry of finance, their failures will always be reflected at the headquarters of the Uganda Revenue Authority during tax collections.

What Rujooki must do

After a thorough perusal into the affairs at URA and particularly the Ggoobi Ramathan letter there are analyzed factors to consider before conclusion.

One the letter is factual with statistics coming from the data base of URA meaning that the mafias have their hand in the URA system.

Two the letter was written say three months back before the real  number of the staff who had left were 51 but they did not update Ggoobi to change the number to 68 at the time when the letter was released in December.

The other point is that they potray John Musinguzi Rujooki as a failure by  indicating that he could not collect the simplest taxes like on small business , house rent tax , tax on construction sources, because buildings do not move to change positions  but how could he now go for big tax payers etc…

The letter puts it to Rujooki to explain the rampant resignation of staff who would collect such taxes.

In such aspect, there is no way Rujooki would explain but the best I would advise him to reach out the commander in chief of the armed forces, the fountain of honor, the appointing authority one on one and address to him what he has done, what he sees, what he knows, what he wants and what he has failed to do.

Infect Rujooki must express his interest to extend his term in office anyway if he still wants to serve in the same capacity and only the appointing authority would save his head from the planned mafia deal to see his exit at the helm of URA.

Wadada Rogers is a commentator on political, legal and social issues. Wadroger @yahoo.ca  

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