By Francis Kagolo
THREE senior officials of the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB) have been interdicted over a financial scam involving more than sh500m.
The trio, one of them the Director Business Registration of Uganda Registration Services Bureau Ms Maudah Atuzarirwe was Tuesday 5th March interdicted over corruption, incompetence and misuse of office by the URSB board following an internal audit report on non-tax revenue collected by the Bureau that implicated them in the scam.
“It is true. The director’s services were terminated because, despite having worked there more than 10 years, she was still on probation in that office unlike the other two,” the URSB board chairman Isaac Musumba told New Vision Online on phone.
“It is very unfortunate. She is a very senior person but she should not have allowed herself to appear in the report for bad reasons.
According to Musumba, the trio caused financial loss to Government amounting to over sh500m by accepting bribes from various companies to charge them lower registration fees.
One is supposed to pay a certain percentage of the share capital to URSB to have their company registered and, according to Musumba, often the amount is in millions.
“About sh500m is the loss to Government but what was taken by these officials to forfeit those colossal fees is also big. These companies pay huge amounts and that is why it is more tempting to pay bribes.”
Bemanya Twebaze, the Registrar General, also confirmed the incident, explaining that the cases also involved forging documents. “We have a zero tolerance to corruption policy. We have tried to fight corruption in past one year but there are still leakages we have to fill.”
Efforts to contact the director who was terminated were futile yesterday as she did not pick repeated calls.
However, Musumba clarified that the board would pursue the matter further by involving the Police and inspectorate of Government (IGG) to prosecute the implicated officials.
This is just the latest in a series of cases of financial impropriety that have dogged the registrar general’s office at least in the past year.
In March last year, the IGG received a whistle-blower dossier highlighting massive fraud, corruption and abuse of office at the Bureau, which Bemanya later dismissed as being a propagation of detractors.
The document was also sent to Parliament and to the office of Leader of Opposition for inquiry.
It highlighted cases of delays in checking details of company files, high costs attached to it and missing files, high cost of acquiring birth certificates and issuing the same to non-Ugandans.
The bureau of registrations, formed in 1998 but made self-accounting in 2010, is expected to generate income through money charged for registering and checking details of a company and issuing birth certificates.
However, there have been longstanding allegations that much of the money does not get into government coffers due to internal corruption in the organisation.
Musumba also acknowledged the presence of corruption, but said a lot had changed since a new board and management came into office in December 2011.
“In 2011, we found when the Bureau was raising sh250m a month from non-tax revenue,” he said. “But when we started work, we put in place new management that tightened the loopholes and we are now raising about sh1.5b a month.”
He commended the work of internal auditors, whom he said had proved their worth in in a short period.