UBOS Seeks Additional Funds for Census Tablets Amid Tax Obligations

The Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) is requesting an extra Shs23.7 billion to clear tax obligations for 120,000 tablet computers acquired for the forthcoming national population census slated for May this year. The tablet computers have a price tag of Shs132 billion.

Led by Executive Director Chris Mukiza, UBOS officials, accompanied by representatives from the finance ministry, appeared before the Committee on Finance, Planning, and Economic Development to present their Ministerial Policy Statement on Wednesday, April 03, 2024.

In August, UBOS procured 38,000 tablets at a cost of US$540 each and 82,000 tablets at US$164 each, intended for use by the National Identification and Registration Authority (NIRA) and the Electoral Commission post-census.

Despite UBOS’s request for a tax exemption, the finance ministry opted for a deferment, raising concerns about future compliance with Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) regulations.

Mukiza cautioned about potential disruptions to UBOS operations, noting ongoing challenges in getting some consignments 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.

Minister of State for Finance, Amos Lugolobi, stood firm, stating that granting exemptions would set an unfavorable 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, committee chairperson, Hon. Amos Kankunda, expressed solidarity with UBOS, stressing the need to ease the bureau’s tax burden. He assured the committee’s collaboration with the government to resolve the matter, highlighting UBOS’s vulnerability under the reporting structure to the Ministry of Finance.

Hon. Mpindi Bumali (Indep., PWDs) queried the cost and types of the tablets and their potential future use.

According to Lugolobi, the tablets will be utilized by three entities: UBOS, NIRA, and EC, with Cabinet approval for procurement, especially considering their multi-use functionality.

“This is a synchronized approach. Cabinet had to put the three together, including NIRA, UBOS, and Electoral Commission, to synchronize 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 Executive Director Benson Turyame, urged the committee to consider additional funding of Shs13.6 billion to enhance procurement audits coverage and monitor local content implementation in public procurement, among other initiatives.

The projected budget for the authority stands at Shs24.1 billion.