Members of National Assembly having passed a Finance Bill which imposed unconscionably high taxes upon Kenyans, notably the 16% VAT on fuel, are now having a “votelzs remorse”‘ It took vigilant Kenyans to make the President cut the same to 8%. This was, however, obvious deception to majority of Kenyans.
Whatever happened in Parliament during debate on the Bill including electronic glitches that appeared orchestrated, truancy and partial. Temporary Speaker who called a wrong vote was embarrassing shameful. The fallout on the mode of voting and walkouts reminded Kenyans cf the recent history of election rigging. it is no solace when the majority Leader brags to the world that he secured the vote through deception. We have moved from rigging general elections to rigging Parliamentary business.
However, MPs cannot absolve themselves from laxity. Despite making-Y public appearances to the contrary, they recoiled under the weight of Executive intimidation. MPs seemed more concerned about protecting their welfare than resolving the punitive taxation exerted on Kenyans and whose spending isn’t accounted for.
There was therefore no doubt that the National Assembly wasn’t going to defeat the President’s rebuttal of the Finance Bill. The President was always Regretting how they voted before, passing the bill going to have his way by dint of unpredictable possibility of MPs raising the required 233 members to defeat his proposals.
Kenyans have now been hung to dry. But a case has been made on the risk the country is exposed to under the oppressive sh5.4 trillion debt whose accountability remains shrouded in mystery. What passed in Parliament contains toxic taxes whose veracity is to punish ordinary Kenyans. The 8% tax on petroleum products up from zero pales against reduction of social welfare budgets geared towards the poor and imposition of heavy, even unconstitutional taxes on common user goods and services.
The 1.5% pay cut towards a housing fund not legislated by Parliament is obviously unconstitutional. The government has overridden court rulings that implementing the Finance Bill before it is enacted into law is unconstitutional. In fact, the High Court ruled on Wednesday that any collection of taxes under the Finance Bill was unconstitutional. This raises the question of the constitutionality of the Finance Bill debated in the National Assembly yesterday, and now the Finance Act.
Kenyans are being taxed on average three times on whatever they make. You are taxed when you earn, receive money, spend it and bank it by a 20% tax penalty on all bank and M-pesa transactions. Government is criminalising ordinary business transactions.
Rural and slum dwellers will pay sh18 more for a litre of kerosene; M-pesa through which poor Kenyans depend on remittances will cost 15% more per transaction. A phone call will be taxed 20% like the Whatsapp message. Isn’t this an attack on freedom of information? Budget cuts on Elderly stipends, free maternity, free secondary education, roads, Equalisation and Affirmative Action funds amounts to waging war on the poor and killing devolution.
There is no doubt that the government is dysfunctional. The President does not trust the bureaucracy and the bureaucracy has resorted to sabotage government policy and engage in wanton looting of public resources. Only recently I called for thorough investigations into Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC). Now it is loading water into tanks instead of fuel. KPC is no different from those who fed Kenyans on poisoned sugar and are walking around free.
If MPs still share the citizens’ concerns on taxation, they have the option of averting a future imbroglio by impeaching those who immediately preside over mismanaging the economy and impoverishing Kenyans through heavy and misuse of taxes.
For some time now, Parliament has absconded its oversight responsibility. It has played altar-boy to the Executive. The Finance Bill fiasco is a rare opportunity for Parliament to assert itself. MPs seeking voter’s remorse should redeem themselves from the label of lethargy and being bribe thirsty by holding to account Cabinet Secretaries who may have misled the country to this budget disaster. If MPs desire to help in the anti-corruption war, there are CSs presiding over corruption within their departments but sit pretty in office holding the President at ransom.
Parliament can be of use by doing its part in removing non-performing and corrupt state officers through censor and impeachment. MPs should exercise their powers under Article 152 (6) -(10) of the Constitution to move and pass a motion to have relevant Cabinet Secretaries dismissed.
The threshold is scalable and makes it possible to hold the Cabinet into account. It does not require the sometimes impossible two-thirds majority but a simple majority of the members. MPs of good will should stand out and be counted.
But I still call upon the President to gather the courage and dissolve the government to re-engineer it.
Hon. Musalia Mudavadi
ANC Party Leader and NASA Founder