CHAPTER THREE: SITUATIONAL ANALYSIS
3.4 Revenue Transparency, Tax exemptions and corruption
Uganda has been consistently attracting the highest foreign direct investment (FDI) in East Africa by attracting between $250 – 300 million in FDI annually between 2010 and 2016 – largely due to its stable and consistent macro-economic policies including liberalization of business environment and tax incentives to investors in selected sectors like manufacturing, oil and gas and Energy (URA, 2019; a Guide on Tax Incentives/Exemptions Available to the Uganda Investors).
Stakeholders, particularly national business owners’ and private providers, noted that tax exemptions were not provided transparently and they were provided to large or foreign companies, making the State to lose needed revenue and causing unfair competition between those who receive and those who do not. The participants also noted that if tax exemptions/ tax incentives are to be granted, the business owners should demonstrate that the exemptions/ tax incentives are justified and their implementation will ensure deliberate, concrete and targeted steps to guarantee protection and fulfilment of human rights, particularly through employment creation and delivery of social services thus improving lives of the Ugandans. In addition, the exemptions should be monitored, their social benefits and the human rights compliance periodically assessed. The assessments should be informed by broad public participation, especially of individuals that are directly affected.
Revenue transparency particularly revenue in the extractives sector has become an increasing concern to the public. There has been a wider call for resources justice through arrangements such as Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the Natural Resources Charter, Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative among others. The NAP consultations enlisted several challenges that affect revenue transparency. There is an inflow of investors opera ng in the districts but without licenses from the district authorities. This was typically raised in Karamoja region where many business owners in the mining sector emerge with mining licenses purportedly from Kampala and do not contribute any taxes to the local government authorities. This has led to reduction in local revenue collection as well as affected social service delivery to the communities.
Corruption is one of the major challenges leading to violation of human rights in business operations in Uganda. Many business operators reported corruption in procurement, acquisition of licenses and tax collection. Imprudent utilization of tax and other resources through corruption undermines positive outcomes of businesses in Uganda. This weakens the economic and social efforts of the government to provide services and even further discourages transparency in matters of business operations.