27 July 2014

Uganda: URA Has Thrived Under Allen Kagina


It was announced last week that Allen Kagina is to leave her position as commissioner general of Uganda Revenue Authority.

While proper audits will be in order, it is worthwhile to reflect on one of the few public sector management success stories of recent years. All factors considered, it is fair to say that Kagina's tenure at URA has been one of significant institutional development. Ms Kagina can certainly take a fair amount of credit for her strong leadership.

Needless to say, any credit to URA goes not only to Kagina but to all its managers and staff, as well as to their predecessors. We also know that URA still faces challenges, including failure to collect all due taxes. For instance, a shop owner with a turnover of Shs 6m a month may not pay income tax, but a recent graduate earning a salary of Shs 1m will be taxed.

It is also worthy of note that the economy of Uganda has expanded over the years - so, maybe tax revenues were bound to grow, as they have, from about Shs 2 trillion to Shs 8 trillion. Yet the world is not short of institutions that failed despite being well-placed to succeed. The role of leadership, therefore, would be difficult to overstate.

Kagina is known to be a very strict manager for whom the pursuit of excellence in any activity is the essence of human engagement. That disposition for perfection may partly explain why URA under Kagina met seven in 10 annual revenue targets.

Over the years, URA has made significant progress towards becoming a more humane, more accessible and more communicative organisation. There is a genuine sense today that taxpayers can talk to URA and be listened to. That image of a service-centred organisation needs to be maintained and developed further.

And in a country that has struggled to have effective institutions, perhaps URA shows us that if the right people are appointed and institutions are given a chance to work and held accountable, this country can be a much better place, with its future secured by an abundance of high-quality potential leaders.

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