Who is Doris Akol?
Who is Doris Akol?

Who is Doris Akol? Flash Uganda Media looks at her biography, early life, education, parents, husband and family of former Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).

Doris Akol is a Ugandan lawyer and administrator. She is a former Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority (URA). She was appointed to that position by Maria Kiwanuka, the then Uganda Minister for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, on Monday, 27, October 2014.

Doris Akol replaced Allen Kagina, who retired after two consecutive five-year terms at the helm of URA.

Doris Akol – Early Life and Education

Doris Akol was born in 1970. She was born and raised in a family of 5 children that includes 3 girls and 2 boys being raised by a single mother Angelica Nyakana who was a secretary working with the Government of Uganda and also working as the IGG her final work before retiring in 2011. 

Akol was raised in Buganda region which explains her fluency in Luganda Language. 

Akol’s equally successful siblings include Dr Anne Akol (a University Professor) and Angela Walube (a reproductive health specialist working with a powerful NGO in Zimbabwe).

Her other sister is Liz who works with a tax advisory agency. One of the Akol brothers works with UBOS. Their dad, who for some reason had long parted with their mum, died in 2003. As a person, childhood friends say, Akol despises intrigue and chooses her battles carefully, only pursuing those that she must.

Doris Akol went to Lake Victoria Primary School in Entebbe and later attended Nakasero Primary School in Kampala. After Nakasero P/S, Akol joined St Mount Mary’s College Namagunga for her O ‘Level education before joining Nabisunsa Girl’s School for her A’ Level education from 1988-1990.

Akol passed A’ Level with high grades and was admitted to Makerere University in 1991 to study a Bachelor’s Degree in Law after she proceeded to LDC for her Bar Course training.

For her Master’s degree (LLM), Doris Akol briefly joined Makerere Law School but for unknown reasons dropped out to complete the same at the McGill University of Canada in 2001.

Akol as well obtained a Diploma in Financial Management (Dip.Fin.Mngmt.), from the Uganda Management Institute (UMI).

Akol was the best student in her PGD class in financial management passing with a distinction.

In the year Akol did her chartered secretary training, she was globally the best in her group comprising of guys with ACCA qualification beating everybody in the exams the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators conducted for that intake.

At the time, the Institute leadership bestowed the “Ralph Bell” prize upon Akol in recognition of the academic excellence she exhibited despite her heavy schedule. 

Doris Akol – Work and Experience

Following Doris Akol’s graduation from the Law Development Centre in 1994, she spent one year at PricewaterhouseCoopers, at their Kampala offices. 

And then later she joined a law firm, Nagemi & Co. Advocates for one year, later Akol volunteered with FIDA Uganda serving in the executive as Treasurer before finally joining URA in 1995 working in its legal department for 19 years. She served as a Legal Officer. 

In 2011 Akol became a Commissioner Legal and Board Affairs at URA serving from 2012 to 2014, replacing Jennifer Musisi. In that capacity, she served as the company’s chartered Corporate Legal Secretary.

Much of her work has been as the in house counsel for URA and is credited for leading the team of Lawyers in the Capital Gains Tax cases against Tullow and Heritage Oil Companies.

In a statement issued by Sarah Banage Birungi, Assistant Commissioner Public and Corporate Affairs, the successes against Tullow and Heritage could see Uganda gain US$800m as revenue.

It’s from this achievement that she was awarded Best Female In-House Lawyer of the Year 2014 by the Uganda Law Society, a very reputable body uniting lawyers. At URA, Akol was part of Fired Up for Excellence Leadership (FUEL) an in-house program aimed at grooming leaders.

This propelled her into a management position wherein October 27 2014; she was appointed Commissioner General at URA and assumed office on 30th, October 2014. Her emphasis, she told reporters, would not be changing URA but build on what Kagina did.

She became the third woman to run URA after Annebrit Aslund (RIP) and Allen Kagina. In her view, this is an indicator that gender is no limitation to career growth.

Being one who overseas collection of more than 90% of the revenue the Government of Uganda uses to deliver services to more than 40m Ugandans, Doris Akol is no doubt a powerful corporate leader.

Akol is one person that President Museveni, must call regularly during her tenure picking updates and her views on many things, technically being the Minister of Finance. She gets summoned to State House at short notice and very regularly.

Doris Akol served as Commissioner General for URA from 27 October 2014 until 29 March 2020 when she got fired by His Excellence the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.

Akol as well serves as a member of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators (ICSA).

Insiders say that integrity and strong legal background enabled Akol to serve on the otherwise very tempting CC with excellence and distinction.

Before being elevated to the position of chairperson, Akol had served on the same URA CC for three years. Sources at PPDA say that Akol chaired the URA CC so diligently, that no single complaint ever came up say from aggrieved bidders during her tenure.

PPDA consistently rated URA one of the most complaint Procuring Entities (PEs).

Like all well accomplished corporate leaders do, Akol also has a history in charity. Her record is that she is a passionate Rotarian who one time served the Rotary Club of Makindye as the General Secretary.

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On where she sees herself in the next 10 years, Akol says anticipates scaling even greater corporate heights by taking up an international role to serve humanity at the global scene beyond just Uganda.

Doris Akol is fired

President Museveni fired Doris Akol on Sunday, March 29th, 2020 as the Uganda Revenue Authority Commissioner General with immediate effect and succeeded her by John Musinguzi who has been serving as a Senior Presidential Adviser, Investment and ICT.

Akol confirmed her replacement via her official twitter handle Doris Akol @URA_CG and said she was privileged to have served Uganda as the Commissioner General URA.

She thanked her subordinates for supporting her during her five-year term in office. In an email sent on Sunday, March 29, Ms Akol also asked her colleagues to support her successor, Mr John Musinguzi.

President Museveni fired Doris Akol
Akol was sacked due to corruption.

“Dear Team,

His Excellency has just appointed Mr John Musinguzi as the new Commissioner-General with immediate effect. Let’s welcome Mr Musinguzi to the URA family and render him utmost support,” she wrote.

“It has been an absolute honour and privilege to be your team leader for 5 years and 5 months. Thank you for loving me, for supporting me and for being loyal to me. May God bless you all? The struggle to liberate our country continues,” she added. 

President’s letter indicated that “By virtual of powers granted to me by the Constitution, I have appointed John Musinguzi Rujoki as the new Commissioner General of URA. This appointment takes immediate effect.”

It’s believed that some of the factors that pushed the sacking of Akol included pressures from Uganda’s development partners who insisted that Uganda is collecting fewer tax revenues than its neighbours in the East African region and many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

A 2018 World Bank Economic Update for Uganda (11th Edition) was damning. It assessed Uganda’s domestic revenue performance and concluded that the country was “doing poorly compared to its peers and it’s potential”.

According to the report, Uganda’s tax-to-GDP ratio is also below the broader COMESA and Sub-Saharan Africa averages.

The report noted that Uganda has the potential to collect revenues of above 20 per cent of GDP over the medium term.

“Reforms are required to put the revenue-to-GDP ratio on an upward trajectory so that Uganda moves towards its potential, and raises sufficient resources to finance its growth and development priorities,” wrote Diarietou Gaye, country director for Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda in a foreword.

Against this background, Ms Akol’s position was increasingly becoming untenable. However, she cannot be blamed entirely for the URA’s perceived underperformance according to Christina Malmberg Calvo, who was World Bank Country Manager for Uganda at the time the report was released.

Calvo said making more people and firms pay their taxes rests on improving the delivery of public services, something Akol and the URA body has nothing to do with.

President Museveni also in his recent address after the 2020/21 budget reading pointed out that he has cleaned corruption problem at URA, indicating that Akol was sacked due to corruption-related issues.

Museveni said he has cleared corrupt crowd from URA, he referred to Commissioners as the corrupt crowd who were stealing instead of serving their people.

Some of the officials the President referred to who resigned from URA earlier this year include Dickens Kateshumbwa, the head of domestic taxes, Henry Saka, from domestic taxes, Silajji Kanyesigye, the commissioner in the large taxpayer’s office and Samuel Kahima, a manager in charge of rulings and interpretations.

“We have dispersed the URA crowd. We called those young people to come and serve but they were doing other things instead.”

Meanwhile, the head of State said URA must increase the tax-to-GDP ratio from 14.5%, saying this was too even to other African countries standards. In the 2020/21 financial year, URA has a collection target of 20 trillion shillings.

Museveni said the tax body must be hard on rental tax. He noted that there are people with 40 houses, all occupied but are claiming they can’t pay taxes because they are building other houses.

“We are saying pay tax per house. This is the argument,” he said.

His message came a week after the government hired a USA firm, Ripplenami, to help map all the landlords in the country and link them to the tax identification register. This will help the government catch landlords that have cheating taxes on the income from their houses.

doris Akol biography
Doris Akol replaced Allen Kagina, who retired after two consecutive five-year terms. FILE PHOTO

Doris Akol’s achievements as CG

Under Akol’s stewardship, Uganda’s tax body has grown revenue from Shs9.7trillion in FY2014/15 to Sha14.5trillion in FY2017/18 indicating an absolute growth of Shs4.8trillion.

During her tenure, URA was able to construct its headquarters at a tune of shs139 billion that was opened in January last year at Nakawa fully funded by the Ugandan government.

The building constructed by Seyani Brothers & Co. (U) Ltd is the tallest building in Kampala comprising four podium and 18 floors totalling up to 26,026 square meters of office space making it 23 floors.

It was stated that the new building will save Uganda Revenue Authority at least sh3.8 billion annually in rental fees.

Akol introduced various initiatives that have boosted rate of tax compliance over time these include; Tax Registration Expansion Program (TREP), robust tax education and sensitization campaigns and block management (physical identification and mapping of taxpayers).

She ordered for deployment of URA staff at One-Stop Shops (OSS) in over 34 municipalities to ensure that taxpayers’ register their business name, acquire trade licenses and register for taxes under the same roof. This move has increased the tax base of the country.

She advocated for taxpayer education and compliance and they were conducted countrywide, other activities like countrywide budget breakfast meetings, tax katales, familiarization visits to the top taxpayers, university debates and establishment of tax societies in all the major universities. Such initiatives have increased levels of tax literacy in Uganda.

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Akol also introduced a Tax Agent Registration Committee (TARC) to regulate the operations of tax agents.

She handed over on Thursday, April 02, 2020, noting that change is normal and good for future leaders.

“It is also a step of growth and expansion for URA,” Akol has served for 15 years in the senior leadership of URA and 5 years and 5 months as Commissioner General of URA.

She emphasized that URA is a robust and well-respected revenue administration in the region and on the continent.

“URA is a much sought after destination for other revenue administrators the world over who come to learn from us how to do things right,” she said. 

Akol accomplished several achievements at URA including being among those who passionately pioneered the URA staffers’ retirement benefits scheme and strengthening it and as well as efficiently chairing the URA contracts committee for three years.

Workaholic Akol, who keeps and honours her appointments to the dot, while still working as the CG made sure that she was in office by 9 am,. Once in office, the first thing she looked at was the numbers, basically how much was collected for GoU the previous day such that the President or even Minister for Finance Matia Kasaija shouldn’t call asking for the latest when she doesn’t know.

The information was even good for planning or for updating colleagues in case she was required to during any subsequent meetings.

The next thing she did was to peruse through the newspapers and online news platforms. This is important to know if they are things in the public domain she requires to respond to, follow up and act upon or prompt one of her subordinates to do so.

Before moving into the first meeting for the day, Akol will also have to check through her mails acting on those that are urgent and can’t wait.

Besides meetings, she could have a public function to preside over or to attend. And her working day goes up to 6:30 pm. Akol, whose day’s schedule can be altered anytime in case she is summoned to an urgent meeting at Finance Ministry or State House, did not believe in taking work home. She would rather stay up late at the office than carrying any work files home.

Challenges Akol faced while serving as a CG

Becoming a CG on 27th October 2014, Akol says came with its constraints on her including losing much of her privacy and freedom to do some of the things she used to enjoy doing as a young mother.

CG work for instance prevented her from driving to the local market or supermarket anymore because that would breach the decorum that comes with being CEO for a huge corporate body like URA.

She could no longer go to the gym in the evening or dancing in the night clubs anymore. The last time she joined friends to go dancing in Kampala clubs was in 2010.

Work has constrained her since: making her friends feel deprived of her company. Commercial poultry is one of the activities she has had to put on hold to comply with the high decorum requirements of being CG.

Free-spirited Akol is also involuntarily subjected to having escorts and police guards both at home and work. Akol sarcastically says going to bed or travelling abroad is the time or excuse she can have to have some privacy away from members of her official security entourage.

Doris Akol – Awards 

In September 2018, Doris Akol received the African Women in Leadership Award, from the African Virtuous Women Awards Organization, at a ceremony held at the Women Development Centre, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city, in recognition of her leadership qualities and achievements.

She was praised for being an exemplary corporate leader in the public sector with plenty of influence on young female corporate leaders across the African continent who said she greatly inspired them.

In March 2018, Akol received the 2018 Person of the Year Public Excellence Award, from African Leadership Magazine, in recognition of her leadership’s contribution to growth and development.

In 2014, Uganda Law Society awarded her Best Female Lawyer of the year. She is also a member of East African Law Society.

Doris Akol Commissioner General for URA
Doris Akol received the African Women in Leadership Award.

Doris Akol – Family

The deeply spiritual Doris Akol lives in her palatial home in Namugongo a Kampala suburb. She is married to man only identified as Samuel, a practising scientist working abroad.

They together have three children one named Joshua including two male twins, following Joshua, that were birthed in September 2018.

Akol’s husband Samuel is deliberately introverted and likes privacy. He was close friends with Akol for long before they agreed to go into a marital relationship.

Before taking on Akol, Samuel had one other child (a boy) who the former CG now takes as her child too.

Akol says they manage the long-distance relationship by regularly talking on the phone with the father of her children. It’s also something she says gives her plenty of space to concentrate on her activities and the very former demanding job as URA topmost boss.

As a mother, Akol gets involved in housework including preparing stuff Joshua goes with at School. Her day begins at 6:30 am and not any earlier because she would have spent much of the night attending to and feeding her two young twins.

The first thing she does every morning after prayers are to prepare the bottles the twins are to use for the day as she is away.

Akol also wants her children to grow up God-fearing and knowing how to pray the very reason she prays with them every morning to start the day.

She equally prays with them at night besides feeding and putting them to bed herself. She also relieves the maids by bathing and taking care of her Joshua, her firstborn child herself.

Balancing Work and family

It is not easy to find a perfect balance because sometimes work stretches into family time, but I have established boundaries and I respect those boundaries. Akol says.

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“I have set principles and I have communicated them to the people I work with. I do not encourage work activities at the time I consider family time.”

Akol says if it is family time, there has got to be no work. For instance, no work appointment is set on Sunday or Saturday afternoon. And that is respected she said during her tenure as CG. Akol said it is important that one’s family gets to know that because at home they do not know one by the position you hold in office but as a wife, mother or sister.

“Then when it is work, there is no family business. For instance, my family does not just come into the office unless it is an emergency.”

Religious affiliation

Doris Akol is an active and devoted Catholic. She is among the eminent Catholics Archbishops Cyprian Kizito Lwanga knows very closely and is very proud of. When she faces spiritually challenging situations, Akol will easily reach out to Archbishop Lwanga for emotional comfort and support.

She is at the same time liberal-minded when it comes to matters of faith which is why she comfortably can attend prayer gatherings and fellowship at Pentecostal and Anglican Churches without denouncing her Catholic roots.

She specifically likes the Pentecostals because they worship in a way that gives her a chance to catch up on the energetic dancing which she misses.

On matters concerning faith, Akol prefers being described as liberal as opposed to being perceived as a highly doctrinal person. When it comes to social relationships, Akol prefers to relate with and form opinions on people for who they turn to be opposed to what they claim to be.

These are some of the personal skills that have made it easy for her to stably superintend over more than 2,400 employees URA had during her tenure without much intrigue manifesting and spilling over into the public domain.

As a person, Akol resents keeping grudges for long and believes in giving people the benefit of doubt before judging them in any way. Akol, for whom Psalms 37:25-26 is the favourite Biblical scripture, believes in and practices high levels of integrity insisting on doing the right thing even when no one is watching.

How Akol manages stress

Indeed, the URA CG job can naturally be very stressful given the vastness of her mandate. Akol managed the resultant stress by reading plenty of Christian literature and non-fictional stuff.

She avidly reads authors like Joyce Meyer, TD Jakes etc. she also goes about “distressing” (as she calls it) by listening to majorly Christian music and she admits carrying plenty of it on her phone.

Her favourites include Josh Groban, Tasha Cobbs, Julie Mutesasira and Judith Babirye favourite being “Wanonda” lyrics which lifts her whenever she is emotionally down.

She also often resorts to Kirk Franklin’s “Why We Sing” whenever her battery burns out and needs replenishment. At the workplace, employees used to say Akol has been able to take URA to greater heights because she resents complacency and she is always pushing her teams to aim higher and achieve more.

She also used to delegates work often so that her subordinates feel empowered and part of what she is doing as a boss. Generally, Akol is one person who URA employees say liked positively impacting on those working under her leaving them better persons that she found them.

Akol, on a bad day, can become so burnt out to the extent of not being interested in local TV news considering it very stressful.

Likes and preferences

Akol likes watching TV documentaries and history-inspired series similar to what Al-Jazeera often broadcasts. She is also into lifestyle TV programs, stuff on travel, cars, homes and animal planet.

She is also particularly on what she wears and most of her expensive clothing and shoes is bought whenever she travels abroad.

Money isn’t her problem which explains her fascination with nice perfumes and jewellery. Renowned for wearing nice little jackets on top of her corporate dresses, Akol likes putting on what makes her comfortable as opposed to what will appease fashion enthusiasts and people she meets or come across throughout the day.

As manifested in what she always puts on, Akol’s favourite colours are maroon, navy blue and charcoal grey (basically legal colours). She also likes doing her nails at home to avoid the same interfering with work time.

Akol likes bonding with her family members whenever she gets time off her busy schedules. This is why she ensures everybody drives to their mum’s Kampala home during Christmas.

Gratefully, the CG always stays in Kampala too just in case of H.E the President renowned for being unscripted calls an abrupt meeting to discuss tax administration matters.

At her mum’s place, Akol will put off the CG hat and join her siblings in preparing the Christmas meal. She also likes exciting the little children with making the Christmas tree and other decorations for the big day.

In case nothing comes up, Akol is always happy spending the 23-26th December with members of her extended family mostly at her mother’s place in Kampala to catch up on family stuff.

One thing she never misses out on is singing Christmas carols for relatives and her siblings gathered at her mum’s place to share the joy of Christmas.

She considers Christmas the most joyful period for everyone and to her, the December holiday is the best time to extract generous concessions from people in case one has to be involved in very complex negotiations.

In her view, the long December holiday is when people let loose and go into a relaxed mood making them ready to let go of the hard positions previously held on certain things.

Yet as a child Akol recalls this being a period that was synonymous with abundant feasting, obtaining new dresses and taking plenty of sodas.