Righting the Ship: Uganda Overhauls its Tax Agency, 2004-2014

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Abstract 

In the early 2000s, the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) faced a crisis. Even after adopting a modernized legal framework that made the agency semiautonomous—able to operate much as a business would, though still accountable to a public board—the institution remained paralyzed by corruption, outdated technologies and procedures, and a toxic organizational culture. In 2004, to begin righting the ship, the URA’s board appointed 43-year-old Allen Kagina, who had served the agency for more than a decade, as the new commissioner general. Kagina engineered a radical overhaul that required all 2,000 URA staff members to reapply for new positions under a revamped organizational structure. A new modernization office overhauled tax procedures, upgraded the URA’s technology, improved anticorruption measures, strengthened the tax investigation and prosecution function, and enhanced staff capacity. At the same time, the URA was working to smooth its customs procedures and improve cooperation with partner countries in the East African Community. 

Leon Schreiber drafted this case study based on interviews conducted in Kampala, Uganda, in January and February 2019. Case published April 2019.

To view a short version of the case, please click here

See related Uganda Revenue Authority Case Study: Bolstering Revenue, Building Fairness: Uganda Extends its Tax Reach, 2014-2018

Keywords 
domestic revenue mobilization
tax administration
tax policy
tax reform
corruption
Focus Area(s): 
Anti-Corruption
Centers of Government
Civil Service
Financial Management
Critical Tasks: 
Computerization of records
Coordination
Corruption in the Civil Service
Depoliticization
Enforcement
Establishing independence
Independent agencies
Investigation or referral
One-stop shops
Organization and staffing
Prevention
Promotion
Ranks and grades
Revenue collection
Sequencing reform
Training
Core Challenge: 
Capacity (capability traps)
Contracting out (creating semi-autonomous agencies)
Credibility (trust)
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Institutional traps (spoilers)
Reducing capture
Transparency
Country of Reform: 
Uganda
Type: 
Case Studies
Author: 
Leon Schreiber