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URA tasked to explain missing impounded fuel

FRAUD | The parliamentary Committee on Commissions Statutory Authorities and State Enterprises (Cosase) has tasked officials from Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to explain circumstances under which fuel that had been impounded went missing, with the tax collectors forced to pay Shs63 million in compensation.

The officials from URA, led by the commissioner General, Doris Akol, had been summoned to respond to queries raised in the 2013/2014 audit reports that noted that Government was forced to pay businessman John Imaniraguha, of Fuelex Petrol Station, after some of the fuel URA impounded pending verification went missing in the custody of Shell Uganda.

During the interface, the committee discovered upon impounding the fuel tanker, URA officials never carried out due diligence on the quantities and later Imaniraguha petitioned claiming some of his fuel was missing.

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Akol said: “After we impounded the fuel, it was deposited with Shell Uganda and after the case was resolved and owner was supposed to pick it, they found that portion was short, that didn’t take place with customs.”

However, her statement attracted more questions with Jinja East MP Paul Mwiru tasking Akol to explain the arrangement the Authority has with Shell to allow URA deposit fuel.

Akol told the committee that at the time, Shell operated a hospitality arrangement that would allow companies and individuals to deposit fuel, an arrangement that URA took advantage of and even said the UPDF officer who impounded the fuel at the Malaba border was recalled from duty by the Army.

Cosase chairman Mubarak Munyagwa asked Akol to explain why URA didn’t consider having an agreement with Shell and if Shell had become part of URA.

“I can’t understand how you impound meat and keep it in a zoo with a hyena. People’s property is being impounded with impunity, unless we investigate this matter of fuel to its conclusion, we wouldn’t have helped the public. This is just a tip of the iceberg,” Munyagwa said.

Mwiru rejected the decision to have the UPDF officer take blame for the missing fuel.

“Can 9,000 litres of fuel ,be put in a pocket? How did an officer move away with 9000 litres of fuel? It is inconceivable that one officer can take away all that fuel without being noticed. What was the time spell from time of seizing the fuel?” Mwiru asked.

Another MP, Agnes Kunihira, wondered how URA came to compensate for the stolen fuel at the cost of Shs6,000 per litre yet Uganda’s fuel price have never reached that level.

James Kisame, assistant commissioner for enforcement, told the committee that the case occurred in 2006 when the importer brought in fuel consigned for DR Congo and prepared transit documents showing it was en-route to DR Congo and when URA officers looked at document and discovered documentation was fraudulent, that is when they decided to impound the fuel.

He explained: “The practice of this tax payer he used to divert fuel on market by not paying tax and in the process of passing through Uganda he finds mechanism of remaining in Uganda. He had used fictitious names in DR Congo, who actually don’t exist and proceeded to impound.”

He later admitted that URA fell short of its obligations when they failed to measure the fuel upon impounding.

“There is a possibility that fuel didn’t get lost because documents indicated higher fuel. This was transit fuel, in terms of procedure we don’t measure fuel in transit because it belongs to another country,” he said.

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