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Kenyan tax body ordered to pay Shs 150m to Ugandan businesswoman

Businesswoman Deborah Kigongo

Businesswoman Deborah Kigongo

Kenya’s High court (commercial division) in Mombasa has ordered Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to pay a Ugandan businesswoman Deborah Kigongo, Shs 150 million in compensation for her goods that the authority auctioned seven years ago.

Kigongo, through her company Kaaya Investments Uganda Ltd, was importing spare parts for road construction trucks from Singapore in 2012 when they got sold at Mombasa. KRA has also been ordered to pay costs of the case and interest dating from 2012. These have not yet been calculated.

The goods were to be supplied to Uganda National Roads Authority (Unra) with ground-engaging road construction equipment, which included cutting edges and other accessories. When her goods arrived in three 20-foot containers worth Shs 448 million,  one of the containers was missing. On asking the Kenya Ports Authority and KRA, she was told that they were auctioned due to delays to collect them.

On May 29, 2019, Justice P.J. Otieno of Kenya High court faulted KRA for not taking care of the goods and notifying the owner before selling them. 

“I do therefore find that the sale by public auction conducted on 25/6/2012 was not validly conducted and that having been so invalid it did occasion to the plaintiff [Kigongo] an illegitimate and unlawful deprivation of property from which the plaintiff is entitled to be compensated,” the judge declared.

Kigongo says that she was happy the truth had come out. She said that when one of the containers was stolen, all the others could not be delivered to UNRA because they could not be used. 

The judge also blamed KRA for publishing the sale of goods in the Kenyan Gazette instead of the East African gazette that can be accessed by the partner states. 

Meanwhile, the ruling came as a sigh of relief from the court battle in Uganda. Despite the fact that Unra assisted her with lawyers to help in the Mombasa case, Uunra went ahead and sued her at the Commercial court for failing to deliver the goods they expected from her.

In court, Unra wanted evidence that indeed goods were auctioned, but also wanted to know the effort she is putting to recover them. Kigongo case was a representation of what a lot of Ugandan traders go through when their goods dock in Mombasa. 

A series of letters have been exchanged between Kaaya Investments Ltd, the owners of the goods; Kenya Ports Authority, (KRA), Uganda Revenue Authority and ministers of trade in both countries and the EAC secretariat.

Last year, Kigongo sued in Uganda's Commercial court and won Shs 54 million against KCB bank over the dispute linked to a loan facility and failure of the bank to carry out agreed instructions to aid her goods she was importing into the country in 2011. 

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