Finance Minister Matia Kasaija has said he is not content with the newly acquired non-intrusive scanners deployed by Uganda Revenue Authority as part of the tax agency’s continuing efforts to combat smuggling and other forms of import tax evasion.
Smuggling, concealing and under-declaration of goods have long occupied minds at URA, leading to the acquisition and installment of non-intrusive inspection (scanners) technology at Malaba and Busia border posts.
The minster who spoke at the launch of the scanners at Busia One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) said he wants scanners that have no human interface.
“I’m not satisfied with this system; I want a system that is not human, where people cannot be compromised. That is how we can maximise revenue; we have lost a lot due to wrong declaration,” he said.
The new X-ray scanners, according to the manufacturers, will be manned by at least two people. Similar equipment will be bought and set up at other entry points, Kasaija said.
It will now take between one and three minutes to inspect a truck, a much shorter timespan compared to the laborious and very slow manual inspection which has been holding up goods at entry points.
Dicksons Kateshumbwa, URA’s commissioner for customs, said the Malaba and Busia scanners cost Shs 15 billion and have aided the detection of concealed cargo, leading to the recovery of at least Shs 7 billion last year alone.
“With the introduction of scanners at the Busia border, last financial year total recovery made was Shs 7bn and in FY2016/17 URA recovered Shs 4bn,” he said.
He added that the scanners were necessitated by the increase in trade volumes and traffic flow across Uganda-Kenya borders.
Cross-border trade increases
Official data at URA show Busia OSBP is the second busiest entry point. Import trade volumes through Busia grew at an average of 10 per cent over the last three years (2015-2017), while exports grew at an average of 12 per cent in the same period.
Total traffic through Busia for FY 2017/18 for various categories of vehicles was 99,650, representing a 23 per cent increase. While traffic outflow for 2017/18 period was 74,889 vehicles, representing a 39 per cent increase in comparison to FY 2016/17 traffic outflow of 45,118.
“FY 2016/17 had traffic inflow of 77,076 vehicles,” Kateshumbwa said.
URA also said that in addition, there are supply chain security concerns such as terrorism, advances in IT aiding sophisticated commercial fraud and smuggling that need to be detected and deterred within URA’s limited human and financial resources.
“This has created a need to innovate and transform systems and procedures to meet international trade requirements; harmonising processes so as to balance the demands for trade facilitation with enforcement of compliance for better service delivery,” Kateshumbwa explained.