20 February 2013

Uganda: Pioneer Agrees to Pay URA, to Resume Operations

The management of Pioneer Easy bus and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) are close to striking a deal that will see the transport company resume its activities "soon," MPs on the Committee on National Economy have heard.

URA Commissioner General, Allen Kagina said the recent suspension of Pioneer Easy operations over sh8b tax dispute was a last resort after Pioneers management had exhausted the tax body's patience.

"We don't want to inconvenience the public. We intend to solve this issue as soon as possible because Pioneer Easy bus management has agreed to a payment plan," Kagina said when asked by Latif Ssebagala (Kawempe North) about the possible resumption of bus services to thousands of people in the Greater Kampala Metropolitan area.

The Commissioner General said only a few loose ends need to be tied up for the bus company to resume its operations, although she couldn't put a date to it.

Kagina told MPs that Pioneer Easy bus management has for more than a year been running URA in circles over outstanding taxes, breaching numerous memorandums of understanding in the process.

Kagina revealed that Pioneer Easy bus had accepted to pay sh20m per month in an attempt to clear the tax, but did it for only three months and started to default.

"It doesn't make economic sense to have 100 buses grounded, but the decision we took last week was meant to account for outstanding taxes," Kagina said.

Pioneer Easy bus was allowed by URA to begin operations early last year without clearing all its taxes because of a strike by taxi operators that had paralyzed transport within Kampala and its environs.

The taxi operators were demonstrating over sh120,000 monthly dues on taxis by Kampala Capital City Authority.

When contacted KCCA public relations officer Peter Kaujju said the authority is to review PEB contract adding that a committee has been set up to start reviewing the contract.

The then KCC signed a contract in which they, were meant to build bus lanes, stages and parking areas for the buses, which he said was not fulfilled.

"We did not honour the agreement and neither did PEB," Kaujju revealed. On the issue of revenue, Kaujju said that each bus was meant to pay sh.300,000 per month to KCCA.

URA last week suspended the bus company operations and issued it with a two-day ultimatum to pay up, or get its buses auctioned off.

Passengers have enjoyed lower fares charged by the buses, compared to those charged by taxis, which dominate the city's public transport.

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