Special Revenue Soldiers Accused Of Extortion

7590 Views Tororo, Eastern Region, Uganda

In short
The Special Revenue Protection Services (SRPS), a military unit attached to Uganda Revenue Authority have come under fire for allegedly extorting money from suspected smugglers in the eastern border districts.

The Special Revenue Protection Services (SRPS), a military unit attached to Uganda Revenue Authority have come under fire for allegedly extorting money from suspected smugglers in the eastern border districts.

The extortion, according to traders who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution from the authorities, takes place at road blocks erected along Mbale-Tororo, Tororo-Busia and Busia-Busitema roads.
 
SRPS is a military unit attached to Uganda Revenue Authority to fight smuggling and tax evasion.

The victims of the illicit trade claim that the soldiers search the vehicles and any body found in possession of items such as soap and sugar are made to pay hefty bribes in order to be allowed to continue. They explain that sometimes the items are genuinely bought for home consumption.

Ouma Adea, the Busia LC5 Chairperson claims that on Monday he came face to face with the officials at one of the check points in Busia, where they had allegedly extorted money from a group of suspected female smugglers.

Ouma, who says he arrested the soldiers and handed them over to their bosses in Malaba, claims that he was forced to act after seeing them searching the pockets of travelers in a passenger service vehicle.

//Cue in: “I saw an old woman…”
Cue out “…taking the money” //

The worsening economic situation has forced people, who live along border areas, to smuggle items like sugar which is relatively cheaper across the border in Kenya. A kilogram of smuggled sugar from Kenya costs 4,200 shillings on black market in Magale while that from Uganda is at 6000 shillings.

Geoffrey Balamaga, the URA Eastern Regional Manager, however claims that the Busia LC5 Chairman assaulted officials, who were doing their routine of inspecting vehicles suspected to be carrying smuggled goods.

Balamaga explains that on Monday, a group of SRPS officials intercepted a bus on Busia-Mbale road with the aim of searching it for smuggled goods. He says one of the passengers in the bus called the LC5 Chairman, who rushed to the scene and assaulted the officials.

Balamaga says Ouma reached the scene and questioned the officials as to which powers they had to stop vehicles and search the occupants. Balamaga denies claims of extortion, saying they have forwarded the matter to police to bring the chairman to order for allegedly interfering with revenue collection.