URA moots using drones to fight smuggling at border points

MASAKA– Uganda Revenue Authority [ URA ] could start using drones as an alternative measure to fight smuggling at various porous border points.

This was revealed by URA customs manager in charge of the southwestern region, Peter Gikwiyakare. He said ungazetted porous border points continue to be used to bring in illicit products from Tanzania.

Gikwiyakare said recently during a recent meeting with Members of Parliament on the Committee of Trade, Industry, Tourism, and Cooperatives at Mutukula one-stop border post.

He said the most smuggled merchandise includes Azam energy drinks, rice, cooking oil, wheat, and an assortment of cosmetics. He said the smuggled goods are stealthily sold in Kyotera town and Masaka city.

”Smuggling is a big challenge at the border posts in southwestern Uganda. However, URA does not have enough security personnel to do surveillance and patrols,” he said.

He appealed to government to release more funds to URA so that they can boost patrols and surveillance at the border points.

He said URA has been using intelligence officers to do surveillance but that they cannot rely upon them 100 percent.  He said the country continues to lose revenue to smuggling.

The official said URA is trying to use technology to manage some of the challenges, adding that they will effectively employ drones as an alternative to patrol the porous border points.

Despite the challenges, Gikwiyakare said URA and government security agencies continue to combat smuggled goods from Tanzania and prosecuted some of the traders who tried to evade taxes.

URA Assistant Commissioner in charge of enforcement, Julius Mponoka said operations have been done in Masaka and Kyotera where more than 20 tonnes of illegal consignments of merchandise on trucks have been intercepted.

For instance, he said smuggled rice from Pakistan disguised as that grown in Tanzania was intercepted, even though it had not been certified by the Uganda National Bureau of Standards.

He said they also intercepted some cosmetics banned in the country because they contain chemicals like hydroquinone and mercury, which causes skin cancer.

URA Customs Assistant Commissioner in charge of goods and services, Asadu Kigozi Kisitu called upon traders to avoid engaging in smuggling, saying they should build a culture of paying taxes for the benefit of the country.

However, Kyotera district chairman, Kintu Kisekulo expressed worry over illicit trading in cattle, especially cows from Tanzania to Uganda, which he said has caused the spread of Foot and Mouth disease in the district. He appealed to police and UPDF to tighten security at the border.

Uganda shares borderlines with Kenya in the east, Rwanda in the southwest, South Sudan in the north, Tanzania in the south, and DR Congo in the west. The listed countries, alongside Burundi, are all members of the East African Community [EAC].


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