The president vows for the umpteenth time to stamp out the vice of tax avoidance by the telecom firms operating in the country. Gen Yoweri Museveni was speaking at the annual lecture to mark the passing on, of Prof Emmanuel Tumusiime Mutebile, formerly the Central Bank Governor.
He noted that if URA were not populated by lazy and corrupt people, they would have helped him to stamp out cases of massive tax avoidance on part of the telecom firms. The President then vowed to launch what he calls a guerrilla warfare to end such massive cases of tax evasion which costs the country dearly.
But a look at the unresolved case about the six-year-long unresolved tax evasion on part of MTN, would make Museveni’s fresh charge to look as if it is just a witticism. MTN was in 2017 caught pants down by ISO undercover agents, having reportedly avoided the payment of up to three trillion shillings in due taxes.
The operation started off with the arrest of one Moses Kefah Musasizi, an IT expert working then for Huawei, a Chinese IT as well as Telecom firm. ISO had got wind of intelligence about how MTN had been engaged in the underreporting of income they could obtain from the different businesses they deal in.
Musasizi arrest had been found critical to the investigation at hand, given that he was the one who had been assigned with the job of accessing the masts to obtain whatever transaction and income that could be posted thereon for the benefit of MTN. Having him arrested, the IT brain would assist to get ISO to the dashboard (call it portal) whereon, such info was being posted for the exclusive consumption and use by the MTN’s CEO.
Intelligence would discover in the course of the investigations about how, upon being relayed on the said portal, the same info and figures would be cunningly and criminally revised downwards. The downgraded info and figures would then be relayed to Uganda Revenue Authority to carry out the requisite taxation.
This is how MTN would reportedly manage to end up dodging payment of up to three trillion shillings, just only within a year. Most important to note is while due investigations are said to have been carried out by ISO, that is where the matter stopped. No effort, to our recollection, has ever been made to prosecute MTN.
What also remains a matter for conjecture is if MTN had ever been made to pay up the said sums of money plus the requisite penalties and fines. Consequently, for the President to again vow to stamp out tax evasion on part of the telecom companies, is to appear as if he is engaging in the usual lip service as opposed to serious action. But be that as it may, the country can only continue to hope and pray that he is this time round meaning what he says and says what he actually means.
Corruption is the Dracula which sucks up more less all the oxygen vital to running of all the sectors of the economy. Therefore, engaging endless vows to end the vice without following the rhetoric with tough action, can only make the bad case go from worse to worst.
- Mr. Stephen Kasozi Muwambi is a seasoned crime investigative writer, majoring in judicial-based stories. His two decades’ experience as a senior investigative journalist has made him one of the best to reckon on in Uganda. He can also be reached via [email protected]
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