ARUA. Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) officials have impounded five Ambulances imported by Arua district woman Member of Parliament (MP) Maurine Osoru over taxes.
The Ambulances which Osoru purchased with the aim of saving lives of expectant mothers in her constituency were impounded in September 2019 and to date, they are still in the hands of URA officials at the Authority’s car bond in Nakawa, Kampala.
Speaking to Journalists in Arua town on Tuesday, Osoru stated that URA is demanding over shs60m tax before releasing the Ambulances to serve the purpose they were bought for.
“I spent shs320m to buy the Ambulances from Japan but when they arrived in the country, URA asked me to first pay 50 per cent environmental levy and 6 per cent withholding tax on each of them and that has taken me long,” Osoru said.
“I have been hustling with URA because when I brought in these Ambulances, I didn’t know that there were some taxes to be paid as much as they say they are not taxes but to me, these are taxes. The guidance I got before was that once you bring the Ambulances, they are tax-free otherwise, I would have prepared to clear them a long time ago”, Osoru added.
The MP said she has already gone to several Ministers including the Minister of Health and the State Minister of Finance in charge of planning, David Bahati to intervene so that the Ambulances are released to help the needy mothers in Arua.
“I had to go to the Ministers to ask them to help me by committing myself to pay the taxes in the near future. What I wanted is the Ambulances to reach Arua and URA extends the tax payment period for me but URA being the government’s basket, once they need their money, they need it and that is why, the Ambulances are still in their hands,” Osoru explained.
She observed that the idea to buy the Ambulances stemmed from the suffering women are subjected to during delivery especially in the rural parts of the district.
“Many women have died on the way trying to access health facilities to deliver in, babies have died too due to lack of transport and when I saw all this happening in my district, I decided to start saving to buy the Ambulances with the hope that they will address the challenge. Unfortunately, they have not reached where they are supposed to be,” Osoru stressed.
Osoru noted that she saved part of her salary and money meant for foreign trips to purchase the said Ambulances.
However, she has remained optimistic that URA will release the Ambulances before January 29, 2020, a tentative day set for their commissioning.
When contacted on phone, Mr Ian Rumanyika, the URA spokesperson said: “Ambulances are tax-free, that is for sure but if she is talking about other taxes, I need to first find out the whole details and then I get back to you. Probably there are other reasons why we held them”.
But Rumanyika couldn’t get back to us with more details by press time as promised.
According to Mr Paul Bishop Drileba, the Acting Arua district health officer, the Arua district maternal mortality rate for 2018/19 stands at 92 deaths out of every 100,000 deliveries.