Fighting smuggling: URA recovers Shs 9bln in six days

BUSIA, February 9, 2024, The Uganda Revenue Authority [ URA ]  says it has recovered Shs 9 billion in the last six days while apprehending smugglers in some districts bordering Kenya.

This was revealed recently by the Regional Enforcement Supervisor of Eastern Uganda, Paul Karatunga during Customs Tax Baraza held at Busia One Stop Border Post aimed at sensitising traders so that they avoid smuggling.

During the meeting, Karatunga noted that the vice of smuggling is still dominant in the border districts, adding that it continues to hurt Uganda’s economic progress.

From July to December 2023, Karatunga said URA seized 510 metric tonnes of smuggled Pakistani rice, 130 metric tonnes of second hand clothes, 181 metric tonnes of wheat flour and 1,123 tonnes of cement.

He noted that another commodity whose smuggling is on the rise is sugar, with URA currently seizing five tonnes of the sweetener  in the last 3 months.

The areas leading in the seizures are Malaba in Tororo district with Shs 1.8bln recovered, followed by Busia where Shs 1.6bln was recovered. Other areas with high recoveries are Mbale, Jinja and Busitema.

The URA official noted that the most smuggled goods are carried in small quantities using bicycles and are later delivered to consolidating centres.

He revealed that smuggling is done in equally gazetted places through mis-declaration of goods, falsification of documents and diversion of transit goods.

To curtail this vice, URA has currently embarked on sensitisation of traders particularly in border districts of the country aimed at luring the perpetuators to abandon the vice.

However some traders in Busia said multiple taxes imposed on businesses in the country have contributed to smuggling.

For instance, Angela Nafula Odong, the Chairperson of Busia Women Cross Border Traders Cooperative noted that the multiple taxes at the customs [Busia] is facilitating smuggling, urging URA to consider engaging other government entities to consider reducing or eliminating some of the taxes.

Patrick Kenyatta Wanjala, the chairperson of Busia business Community asked URA to identify renowned smugglers in the region and use them to sensitise those who are stuck in the illegal business activity.

He also asked URA top officials to rein in URA enforcement officers who pick bribes from the smugglers, hence facilitating the vice.

Richard Onyango, a businessman in Busia district also noted that delays in clearing goods forces some of the traders to engage in smuggling so as the beat the delivery time.

Meanwhile, the Busia District Resident Commissioner [RDC] Michael Kibwika said that in a bid to fight smuggling, the Busia security committee has profiled some smugglers who will be presented to relevant authorities.

The RDC also noted that they have registered multiple cases of women being raped and snake bites as a result of smuggling that takes place in the bushes, hence calling upon the general public to desist from the vice due to such unbearable consequences.

The URA Regional Supervisor Eastern Uganda, Robert Ogwal advised traders to clear their goods at the official customs points, saying smuggling can sometimes be expensive in the end.

URA's target for revenue collection in the fiscal year 2023/24 has been set at Shs 29,218.98bln, which is a noteworthy increase of Shs 4,067.41bln compared to the previous year.

There is concern that low tax revenue is forcing government to borrow more and more, thus increasing the public debt which currently stands at about at about Shs 97. 5trn as of the end of June 2023, meaning the money which the country should be spending on development is being allocated to debt repayment.

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