Lack of facilities hampers anti-smuggling efforts
The absence of facilities such as the one stop border post (OSBP) is affecting government’s revenue collections at most of the country’s entry and exit points.
OSBP is a border facility that combines two stops for national border control processing into one and consolidates border control functions in a shared space for exiting one country and entering another.
This was party of discovery by MPs sitting on Parliament’s committee on Finance, Planning and Economic development who have been on a tour Uganda’s border posts in Northern and Eastern Uganda.
The MPs specifically visited the customs border stations of Busia, Malaba, Elegu, Afogi, Oraba, Lia, Vurra and Pakwach with an intention of appreciating the operations of customs border points and their unique challenges.
With the exception of Busia that has a fully operational one stop border post, entry points such as Malaba, despite being the biggest customs entry station, do not have a fully operational OSBP.
In terms of trade volumes, according to URA records, last financial year Malaba cleared imports worth Shs 6.6 trillion and exports worth Shs 2.5 trillion.
Busia on the other hand cleared imports worth Shs 2 trillion and shs600 billion worth of exports, but remains the major clearance point for fuel.
“In terms of their strategic importance, these two ports are our main lifeline,” Dickson Kateshumbwa, the commissioner for Customs at URA told the MPs. Kateshumbwa also informed the Committee that the Malaba export road, which connects to the newly built export bridge, funded by Kenya, had not yet been constructed.
“At the moment, we are using the old bridge, which is in a very poor state. Our appeal to government is that it works on this road because it is a national embarrassment that Kenya is ready to operationalize the one stop border post but Uganda is not ready,” he said adding that “the road is less than a kilometer long,” he said.
Aruu County MP Odonga Otto suggested that the committee should recommend for the shifting the budget component for the road to Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) if Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) is not able to fix the road.
Otto was supported by Koboko North MP Elly Asiku who said that the road had turned into a national shame.
“This is our cash cow and we should prioritise the road; it’s a national shame that Uganda hasn’t done its part, especially since we even have challenges with revenue collection,” Asiku said.
At Elegu in Amuru district, the Committee noted that construction works on the OSBP had stalled because of lack counterpart funding from government. The OSBP should have been handed over two years ago. Apart from the challenge of funding, the border post is prone to flooding whenever it rains.
“There are also a lot of porous points we have to patrol and yet this is a major and strategic station to us because we export goods worth over shs700 billion to South Sudan,” Kateshumbwa said.
The MPs also discovered that cases of smuggling, under declaration of consignments, concealment of goods is still rife.
At Afogi border postbin Moyo district, the MPs were shown motorcycles that had confiscated at Afogi border post in Moyo District for not paying custom duties.
Following the intensification of border patrols by URA, there has been a shift to smuggling foodstuff, mostly wheat, sugar and rice.
The Committee was confident that if the East African Community countries harmonise their tariffs, it would go a long way in addressing smuggling. It however, noted that some countries opt for a stay of application of the common external tariff and this compounds the problem of smuggling.