UBOS seeks additional Shs 23.7b to fulfill tax obligations for census tablets

UBOS seeks additional Shs 23.7b to fulfill tax obligations for census tablets
UBOS seeks additional funding for census tablet tax obligations

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) is requesting an additional Shs 23.7 billion to settle tax obligations for 120,000 tablet computers procured for the upcoming national population census slated for May this year.

The tablet computers were acquired at a cost of Shs 132 billion. UBOS, led by Executive Director Chris Mukiza, along with officials from the finance ministry, presented their Ministerial Policy Statement to the Committee on Finance, Planning, and Economic Development on Wednesday, April 3, 2024.

In August, UBOS purchased 38,000 tablets at a price of US$540 each and 82,000 tablets at US$164 each. These tablets are designated for use by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Electoral Commission (EC) following the census.

Despite UBOS’s request for a tax exemption, the finance ministry opted for a deferral, raising concerns about future compliance with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) regulations.

Mukiza cautioned about potential disruptions to UBOS operations, noting ongoing challenges in getting some of their shipments through customs.

“At customs, for each consignment to come, we have to write and they do a provisional release. They have given us up to September 2024, and so they may come and close Statistics House,” he said.

The Minister of State for Finance, Amos Lugolobi, remained firm, stating that granting waivers would establish an undesirable precedent for other entities.

“The minister wrote and said this one we shall accommodate. He delayed the payment of the tax. He does not need to be unnecessarily worried,” Lugolobi said.

However, the committee chairperson, Amos Kankunda, expressed solidarity with UBOS, stressing the importance of easing the bureau’s tax burden. He assured the committee’s collaboration with the government to address the issue, highlighting UBOS’s vulnerability within its reporting structure to the Ministry of Finance.

Mpindi Bumali (Indep., PWDs) raised inquiries regarding the cost and specifications of the tablets and whether they would be distributed or sold in the future.

Lugolobi clarified that the tablets would serve three entities: UBOS, NIRA, and EC. He mentioned that the procurement was approved by Cabinet, particularly because the tablets would have continued utility beyond a single use.

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“This is a synchronized approach, Cabinet had to put the three together including NIRA, UBOS and Electoral Commission to synchronize their approach on the procurement of these devices. They all belong to government anyway,” he said.

During the same committee session, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), under the leadership of its Executive Director, Benson Turyame, appealed to the committee for additional funding amounting to Shs 13.6 billion.

This funding would facilitate the expansion of procurement audits coverage and enable monitoring of local content implementation in public procurement, among other initiatives.

The projected budget for the authority stands at Shs 24.1 billion.