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Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) seeks additional Shs23.7 billion to cover tax for census tablets

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The Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) is seeking an additional Shs23.7 billion to settle tax obligations for 120,000 tablet computers procured for the upcoming national population census scheduled for May this year.

The tablet computers cost Shs132 billion. 

With the Executive Director of UBOS, Chris Mukiza, at the forefront, alongside officials from the finance ministry, they appeared before the Committeeon Finance, Planning and Economic Development to present their Ministerial Policy Statement on Wednesday, April 03, 2024.

In August, UBOS purchased 38,000 tablets priced at US$540 each and 82,000 tablets at US$164 each, which are set to be used by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Electoral Commission after the census.

Despite UBOS’s plea for a tax waiver, the finance ministry opted for a deferral, prompting concerns about future compliance with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) requirements. 

Mukiza warned of potential disruptions to UBOS operations, adding that it is still a struggle for some of their consignments to get through customs. 

“At customs, for each consignment to come, we have to write and they do a provisional release. They have given us up to September 2024, and so they may come and close Statistics House,” he said.

The Minister of State for Finance, Amos Lugolobi, remained firm, stating that granting waivers would establish an undesirable precedent for other entities. 

“The minister wrote and said this one we shall accommodate. He delayed the payment of the tax. He does not need to be unnecessarily worried,” Lugolobi said.

However, the committee chairperson, Hon. Amos Kankunda, expressed solidarity with UBOS, asserting the need to alleviate the bureau’s tax burden. He pledged the committee’s cooperation with the government to resolve the issue, emphasising UBOS’s vulnerability within its reporting structure to the Ministry of Finance.

Hon. Mpindi Bumali (Indep., PWDs) questioned the cost and types of the tablets and whether they will be sold or given out in the future.

According to Lugolobi, the tablets will be used by three entities of UBOS, NIRA and EC, and that the procurement was sanctioned by Cabinet especially because it will not be used only once.

“This is a synchronised approach, Cabinet had to put the three together including NIRA, UBOS and Electoral Commission to synchronise their approach on the procurement of these devices. They all belong to government anyway,” he said.

Meanwhile appearing before the same committee, the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA) led by its Executive Director, Benson Turyame, has called on the committee to consider additional funding of Shs13.6 billion increasing the coverage of procurement audits, monitor the implementation of local content in in Public procurement among others.

The projected budget for the authority is Shs24.1 billion.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Parliament of the Republic of Uganda.

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