By Andrew Visper
URA Commissioner Customs Dicksons Kateshumbwa Uganda Revenue Authority [URA] has also spoken out on a saga that saw eight Bank of Uganda officials arrested and investigated by State House Anti-Corruption Unit for ferrying “other cargo” on a plane chartered by government.
Government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, said on Friday that the plane which was ferrying Ugandan currency from Paris in France ended up carrying cargo for businessmen Charles Mbire and Omar Mandela as well as United Nations [UN] and United States Agency for International Development [USAID].
Neither the head of Anti-Corruption Unit Lt Col Edith Nakalema nor Governor Emmanuel Mutebile who literary blew the whistle have explained what that cargo was.
URA Commissioner for Customs, Dicksons Kateshumbwa, says in April this year, URA Entebbe Customs was informed by BoU of an impending import of Currency and requested to facilitate quick clearance.
A private chartered plane arrived and as normal practice for sensitive cargo Customs facilitated clearance of the currency at the tarmac in presence of BOU Officials, BOU Security, Aviation Security, Police and other security agencies.
The consignment was offloaded, inspected and loaded on BOU vehicles and taken to KAMPALA under heavy security escort.
The same plane contained other cargo which belonged to various individuals / companies / organisations.
As per normal customs clearance procedure, this cargo was offloaded into the licensed bonds at the airport and subsequently the owners made customs declarations, paid applicable taxes and Customs physically verified each consignment to ascertain accuracy and consistency with the declaration and released the goods to the owners.
Each consignment had its individual airway bill. Kateshumbwa says the URA Customs was not party to the airline charter arrangements between BOU, the airline and the other owners of the goods.
“It is not the responsibility of Customs to concern itself in logistical arrangements of importers or exporters,” he said.
“Our duty is to ensure that imported cargo through the airport is received and tallied with the cargo manifest, verified and is cleared inline with the Customs Laws as established under the East African Customs Management Act (EACCMA).”
In this particular consignment like all others, Kateshumbwa says Customs staff followed the procedures to the dot and “we can account for the cargo cleared fully”.
“URA should not be dragged into logistical contractual failures or mistakes of BOU and their service provider.”
The Ag Assistant Commissioner Public and Corporate Affairs at URA, Jamil Ssenyonjo, told PressUg that URA’s job was to verify whether taxes had been paid and clear the cargo.
URA Commissioner Customs Dicksons Kateshumbwa
He says that is what customs did at Entebbe airport as mandated but is not party to prior arrangements concerning the “other cargo” that was on the plane.
Asked what was contained in the cargo, Ssenyonjo told PressUg because of client confidentiality, he could not reveal the contents but can only avail such information to the investigating authorities.
He said URA has already provided the details of the information required by the investigators and are available to offer any clarification if required.
Ssenyonjo says URA was not part of the verifying team in Paris and cannot be held accountable for what the chartered plane company did as far as unauthorised cargo is concerned.