SPEECH BY CPA NARU THAKKAR, THE PRESIDENT OF THE INSTITUTE OF CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS OF UGANDA, AT THE I5TH BUDGET BREAKFAST, HELD AT THE IMPERIAL ROYALE HOTEL ON FRIDAY 14TH JUNE 2013.
I take this opportunity to welcome you to the 15th Budget Breakfast. The national budget is of great significance to all citizens because all sectors of the economy derive their funding from it. As accountants we recognize the importance of planning in the financial management process. The reading of the national budget arouses great expectations from the citizens of a country, as every sector anticipates a boost in funding, new development initiatives from the government, and lucrative changes in the tax regime, among others. A budget is indeed a pre-requisite for financial management.
Ladies and gentlemen, the 2013/14 national budget was read yesterday, and by now most of us are conversant with the various sector allocations. We have convened here this morning to review the economic performance of the 2012/13 Government of Uganda budget and to analyse the 2013/14 budget. The new budget is no ordinary budget. With the demands of the economy proliferating and billions of funds in budget support slashed, the task ahead is immense.
The 2012/13 financial year has been one of the most challenging for the economy, with development partners suspending financial aid due to massive fraud unraveled in the public coffers. What remains now is for us to devise efficient strategies of sustaining our budget. Can we thrive without donor funding? Will the very obvious tax payers have to pay more than a fair share of their obligation to finance the country? Will funding to some sectors diminish significantly to avail more funds for other priority areas? Will supplementary budgets continue for selected government departments despite the cry of limited resources by others? These and many others are the disconcerting questions lingering in our minds. Honourable Minister, we are confident that an efficient strategy has been devised to address the challenge before us.
Successful budget implementation calls for discipline, which encompasses accountability. The question is not how much resource we have but rather how we manage what we have.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Accountants Bill, as we know, was passed on 6 February 2013. As we deliberate on the economic implications of the 2013/14 budget, may I take this opportunity on behalf of the Institute to express utmost gratitude to all parties who contributed to the achievement of this milestone. I am happy to inform you that, the Honourable Minister indeed kept her promise, which she made during last year’s Budget Breakfast. The Bill now awaits Presidential assent. Honourable Minister, we are extremely grateful for your input. We are grateful for your dedication to the profession and we hope that we can continue to maintain a favourable working relation with the Ministry. May I also take the opportunity to thank Members of Parliament present, for their role in the passing of the Bill.
Ladies and gentlemen, this Bill, although it is called the Accountants Bill, is actually the public’s Bill, because its significance transcends the work and jurisdiction of accountants. Accountability is a universal responsibility and the consequences of its absence affect the entire nation. Accountancy, being a stewardship profession, we are confident that the Bill will strengthen ICPAU’s efforts towards improving the accountability framework of our country.
Yesterday, the Honourable Minister showed the public, the role of accountancy by amending Section 92 (5) of the Income Tax Act to reference tax returns to audited financial statements. This is a welcome improvement in tax administration and we believe it is another building block to widening the tax base. The accountancy profession is committed to fighting fraud and the Institute continues to seek government’s backing on this noble cause.
Honourable Minister, one issue still weighs heavily on our hearts regarding accountancy practice. Trade licenses. Our members are still required to pay trade licences and yet ICPAU issues practicing certificates to these practitioners. We have written to KCCA, appealing to them to waive the levy of trade licences on accountancy firms, citing Section 20 of the Accountants Act, which requires ICPAU to issue practising certificates to persons practising accountancy in Uganda, and Section 8 (2) of the Trade Licensing Act, which states that, “no trading licence is required in any event for any trade or business in respect of which a separate licence is required by or under any written law”. We feel, as the regulator of the profession that this is not only unfair, but also detrimental to the public, as unscrupulous individuals take advantage of this loophole to fraudulently offer accountancy services in the city, having obtained a licence from KCCA rather than from the regulator of the accountancy profession, ICPAU.
We request that the representative from KCCA forwards this appeal to the Executive Director, so that we can pool efforts in the promotion of professionalism in accountancy, for the benefit of Ugandans. We also request you, Honourable Minister, to forward this concern to the Minister for Trade, as the issue of trade licences also falls within her docket. The government has a good working relation with accountants and I am certain that next year, same time, we will be thanking KCCA for waiving trade licences on accountancy firms.
As we embrace the new budget, it is incumbent upon us accountants to ensure efficient utilization of the country’s resources and professional accountability for funds entrusted to us. May we continue to shun fraud and greed, and open a fresh page in the accountability for the country’s wealth.
I thank you all for honouring our invitation to this important breakfast meeting. The presentations that are yet to be made are comprehensive and well researched by highly competent tax professionals and I urge you all to listen attentively, as there is plenty to learn from.
I thank you for your kind attention and wish you a fruitful discussion on the 2013/14 Government of Uganda budget.
For God and My Country,
CPA Naru Thakkar,