1 September 2013

Uganda: URA to Track Cargo Electronically

From November this year, Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) will electronically track cargo in transition, to deal with the tampering that usually takes place after the goods have left the port. According to URA, the Electronic Cargo Tracking System (ECTS) devices will be attached on trucks that are in transit, and will be monitored until they reach their point of destination.

"These devices are attached on a truck and constantly give feedback to the team at the control centre. The feedback includes location of a vehicle, speed and status of the container, among others," a URA statement said.

"If the device gives information contrary to that declared earlier, the goods being dumped here instead of being exported, customs officials will make a decision accordingly."

At the moment, customs officials escort and monitor movement of goods physically, which is costly and tiresome. The system will be pioneered on high-risk goods like sugar, wines and spirits, textiles, explosives, cigarettes and spirits. It will thereafter be rolled out to other types of merchandise.

URA says with such a system, they will not need to have the road-blocks and weighbridges, platforms that are a conduit for bribery. At the cost of $5.2m (approx Shs 13bn), the ECTS will help URA to improve efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business. It will also help the tax body to plug the loopholes where tax revenues have been lost.

The project is supported by the government, the World Bank and Trade Mark East Africa, a trade facilitation organisation. However, the system could get the same spirited opposition like those in Tanzania.

In Tanzania, traders are already up in arms soon after the Tanzania Ports Authority (TPA) announced it was adopting an electronic cargo tracking note (e-CTN). Meanwhile, URA registered a tax revenue surplus of Shs 7.08bn in July. URA collected Shs 599.45bn against the target of Shs 592.37bn.

Henry Saka, the Commissioner for Domestic taxes at URA, said the new taxes introduced this financial year contributed to the surplus. International taxes, however, posted a deficit. The deficit was fuelled by a shortfall in excise duty, value added tax on imports, and withholding tax. Compared to July 2012, however, this month's collections grew by 13 per cent.

Star performing tax-heads were: pay as you earn (PAYE), tax on electricity, and tax on airtime.

On electricity, Umeme started piloting pre-paid metres in Mutungo and some parts of Bugolobi, which is thought to have reduced on defaulters. The target for the month of August 2013 is Shs 607.67bn

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