Editor’s Note: President Museveni on Sunday 29th appointed Mr Julius Musinguzi Rujoki as new Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority( URA), replacing Lawyer Doris Akol
So Doris Akol, a career chief executive whose contract was just renewed, has been dropped (others will say fired) as Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and replaced by a “political appointee” (i.e not appointed by the URA Board)!
Yes, the President is entitled to appoint and fire members of his cabinet and the heads of all other independent agencies in the government. Such authority is implicit in the Constitution itself.
Should we be concerned? Maybe, maybe not.
Established in September 1991 through an Act of Parliament, URA is the oldest integrated revenue authority in sub-Saharan Africa.
This “revenue authority” model was aimed at limiting direct political interference in day-to-day operations by the Ministry of Finance and to free the tax administration from the constraints of the civil service system.
With autonomy to manage its affairs in a business-like way, free of political interference in day-to-day operations, it was envisaged, therefore, that being outside the main civil service, it would execute its own human resources strategy of recruiting, retaining, dismissing and motivating staff.
However, the spoils system remains entrenched in URA and seems hardly ever questioned, that all the key policy-making positions and their immediate support staff should be filled by politically correct individuals or cadres, if you like.
So why do we have political appointees?
The primary reason, theoretically, is to assure political accountability.
A secondary reason is to reward supporters (and their kin), who supported the struggle or helped elect the President.
For argument’s sake, isn’t the President entitled to have leaders loyal to him calling the shots? Isn’t it essential that the policies of the tax body be consistent with the president’s priorities, and be developed and implemented by persons subject to presidential appointment, control and removal?
Can career executives be trusted to carry out the regime’s policies? It depends.
For URA to succeed in an age when it performs an increasingly complex range of functions and services, much depends on the recruitment, training, utilization, morale, and productivity of its work force.
Maximizing that work force’s responsiveness and effectiveness requires strong, sensitive, and far-sighted leadership, constant vigilance and a readiness by government to devote the requisite resources.
In short, it requires a commitment to institution building.
Changing an organization’s culture, an undertaking initiated by Allen Kagina in 2005, takes tremendous effort and persistence.
Moreover, good managers are not created overnight, and it takes far more than intelligence and drive to become one. There is simply no substitute for experience gained before, not after, one is appointed to an executive position.
It takes years of working within an organization at various functional and operational levels, and at increasing levels of responsibility, for one to be a successful manager.
It takes extended observation of what works and doesn’t work, of learning the lessons of failure and how to maximize success.
It also takes maturity, sufficient time, and life experience to have acquired the requisite seasoning and perspective.
Political appointees lack this commitment for obvious reasons.
Their short tenures, their lack of management experience, their personal ambitions and their search for quick fixes and immediate results to appease the appointing authority, all militate against sustainable management practices aimed at institutional building.
More often than not, political appointees have no real stake in the future of the organizations they manage.
They do not see themselves as the caretakers of ongoing public institutions and thus responsible for leaving those institutions stronger than when they arrived.
On a positive note, while political appointees may come poorly equipped to carry out their management responsibilities, they have the potential to learn to be good managers.
Given sufficient time and discipline to acquire many of the requisite skills, they can actually deliver.
The downside, unfortunately, is that they don’t stay long enough.
By the time they begin to acquire useful managerial skills, wisdom and insight, they often leave or are themselves fired!
Akol Doris, thank you for your hard work and commitment in building and growing the tax revenue base to what it is today. Your efforts to increase the credibility and visibility of URA in the regional and international space is appreciated.
John Musinguzi, Congratulations on your appointment. May you enjoy success and fulfilment in your new role.
The Author Mr Joseph Okuja is a Tax Director at Libra Tax and Legal Consultants.
For comments on this article contact him on firstname.lastname@example.org