Akol Grapples with Internal Dissent, Anger at URA

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URA staff are up in arms following the publication of the Shs 6bn “presidential handshake” offered to government lawyers and other senior officials for participating in the litigation process against Heritage Oil.

The Staff, who talked to The Rwenzori Times, on condition of anonymity so as to speak freely, said the bonus request initiated, pursued and paid by Akol appears to ridicule their work.

“The donkey work is done by junior staff. That the bosses picked checks of millions of shillings is not only stressful but disappointing,” said a URA insider.

In a bid to cool tempers at the Nakawa-based tax collection body, Akol was compelled to issue a staff memo, pleading for patience and restraint.

“Understandably, there will be emotions around this but we will not be distracted and we will be relentless in our struggle against tax evasion and zero tolerance to corruption,” said Akol.

Documents seen by an online paper Chimp Reports showed that Akol, whose institution has in recent years failed to hit targets, personally sourced for the Shs 6bn bonus from president Museveni before using URA resources to pay them.

Questions have been asked about the criteria used to determine beneficiaries.

Government spokesperson Ofwono Opondo condemned the payments, saying their smirked of conflict of interest as they were prompted by the beneficiaries.

NRM Secretary General Kasule Lumumba described the bonuses as a bad idea.

“Me as Kasule Lumumba I don’t agree with the development and it was bad. Why should government start awarding its own people in such a fashion?” she asked.

She stressed that if such bonuses were essential, a formal legal framework should be put in place to systematically handle it.

“If such payment is necessary then it should be legalized and things done openly,” Lumumba stressed.

MPs and civil society have equally expressed alarm, calling for investigations into the oil payments and sanctions.

Akol told staff to always be mindful that “significant successes have been scored by URA in the recent past in the struggle to streamline tax collection, e.g. through professionalizing the clearing fraternity, asserting our right to break questionable aggressive tax planning schemes by some taxpayers and break some corruption syndicates and schemes among staff.”

She added: “So Team, please stay calm and concentrate on your work because despite the distractions around us, we have a job to do.”

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