Museveni blocks URA’s directive on customers’ bank accounts

By Yasiin Mugerwa & Thembo Kahungu

President Yoweri Museveni has stopped the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) from demanding customer information held by respective banks.

According to cabinet sources, the president’s furious response was prompted by finance minister Matia Kasaija, who had sought cabinet discretion on how to proceed with the latest URA move.

The president however wondered who authorized the URA Commissioner General Doris Akol to demand confidential client information without clearance from cabinet.

Asked whether he knew about the directive, Kasaija told the president that as a political supervisor of URA he had not been consulted and that he had come to seek guidance.

Justice and constitutional affairs minister Kahinda Otafire told cabinet that some Ugandans had started withdrawing their cash from banks and keeping it under their beds.

While another female minister said the move would force Ugandans to open up bank accounts in foreign countries and hurt the economy in the process.

The Uganda Law Society has warned that the request by the Uganda Revenue Authority to have banks furnish it with their customers’ private information is likely to destroy the core of the banking industry which is premised on confidentiality.

The tax body’s requests of 16th, 19th and 29th March 2018 direct all banks and other financial institutions to furnish it with information on accounts held between 2016 and 2017, on the basis of section 42 of the Tax Procedures Code Act 2014.

However, in a statement, the newly elected president of the law society Simon Peter Kinobe says this provision should not be implemented at the expense of the constitutional right of privacy as enshrined in Article 27 of the constitution.