Allen Kagina’s Long Road Ahead to Changing UNRA [analysis]

Allen Catherine Kagina joins Uganda National Roads Authority after a successful career at the Uganda Revenue Authority. She joins a sector that taxpayers, especially traders and importers, say has been one of the reasons why the cost of doing business has been high, as they struggle to transport their goods on a poor road network.

Kagina’s joining of UNRA could be seen as a change for better. That is because she is credited for fixing the tax body, an institution where tax evaders called the shots and staff swindled money at pleasure before she took over. When leaving URA last October, Kagina told journalists that “in administration and organisation, that’s where my heart is.”

She then added: “I would believe that the last 22 years in URA have equipped me [with skills] to serve either in a public or private institution.”

“I saw the body [URA] go through disease, corruption, inefficiency, high-handedness, and poor services. We were sick.”

JUICY CONTRACTS

At UNRA, Kagina joins a body that has been rattled with allegations of corruption and mismanagement of funds plus infuriating red-tape, especially in the awarding of juicy road contracts. UNRA’s biggest scandal has been the Mukono-Katosi road, where the contract was said to have been handed to a shoddy company. It was partly as a result of that scandal that Ssebbugga Kimeze, then acting executive director, and other senior officials, were shown the exit.

And yet, UNRA despite its troubles has had a number of instances where it was a star performer. It has built a number of roads and changed the face of a number of others, especially those in the countryside.

Kagina’s management style will be of keen interest. At URA, Kagina once said that she placed a lot of trust in staff to execute their duties.

“I did not have to sign on each and every document for work to go on.” The task here is to change UNRA’s image the public knows of where some contract deals are awarded without having due diligence done to one where everything moves on systematically.

Roads also remain such an emotional sector that it can build or break politicians as they can win or lose a vote because a certain road has not been worked on. A lot of influence from politicians is expected to come her way. She has to put her foot down. But for starters, in the financial year 201516, she will oversee a total of 400km of national roads tarmacked.

This will be an ambitious target for the sector if compared to the targets for 201415 financial year, where the government targeted a total of 250km to be tarmacked. But by the end of the first quarter (July to September 2014), 64km had been finished. Key projects such as the Kampala-Entebbe express and the Kampala – Jinja expressway will be completed under her reign.

Bridges such as the new Nile bridge at Jinja, Enyau-3 and Alla in Arua, and Birara bridge in Kanungu will also test her.

WHO IS KAGINA?

Born in southwestern district of Rukungiri, Kagina, 54, studied at Gayaza High School before joining Makerere University for a degree in psychology. She then did an MA in Public Administration from the University of Liverpool, UK.

She began her career in 1985 as a teaching assistant at Makerere University. She then shortly worked at the president’s office, from where she joined Uganda Revenue Authority in 1992 as a principal revenue officer. In 2000, she was promoted to the rank of deputy commissioner.

She was appointed commissioner general of URA in 2004 after the Julia Sebutinde commission of 2002 found gross mismanagement and corruption at the revenue body. Kagina is credited for restructuring URA and turning it into one of the most efficient public institutions in the country.

She oversaw the growth of revenue collections, which have shot up to more than Shs 8tn in 201314 financial year, from Shs 1.9tn in 2004, according to URA. The improved performance helped to raise the tax contribution to the national budget to 71.5 per cent last year when she left, from 58.7 per cent in 2004 when she joined.

Source : The Observer

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