Kenya’s VAT tax debate:President Kenyatta’s proposals win amid Pandemonium

By Samuel Ouma

Speaker Justin Muturi during a media briefing in his office in Parliament on January 25, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor(Star newspaper)
Speaker Justin Muturi during a media briefing in his office in Parliament on January 25, 2018. Photo/Jack Owuor(Star newspaper)

Chaos, walkout marred the voting process on the tax proposal by President Uhuru Kenyatta which includes the 8% Value Added Tax (VAT) on Petroleum products on Thursday, September 20, 2018.

National Assembly speaker Justin Muturi, Majority leader Aden Duale, his minority counterpart John Mbadi and minority chief whip Junet Mohammed bore the brunt of the disarray, accused of helping the bill go through by the irate legislators who called for the abolition of the bill.

Duale and Mbadi led a walkout from the chamber to thwart any amendments that handed President Uhuru victory on the ground of lack of quorum as quoted by the speaker. Other legislators are alleged to have given out their electronic voting cards while others trooped to the toilet in order to bring down the overwhelming majority who opposed the bill.

Some Members of  Parliament claimed there were intimidations from their respective political parties who had threatened to take disciplinary action against any member who had gone against President Kenyatta and the opposition chief Raila Odinga.

Earlier, Minority leader John Mbadi was shut down by a section of the legislators for supporting the bill that he had initially opposed. He had said the Bill will harm Kenyans asking the president to shelve it for two years. His attempt to rally others to support the tax was disrupted by shouts of “Mbadi must go’’.

“I am one of the people who were against the levying of petroleum products and for good reason. There is no zero rating on petroleum products; what we had asked the president was a suspension for two years,”Mbadi said before the house erupted.

Duale also had explained the reasons for the President’s proposals before the house turned against him.  He stated the tax would generate government revenues to finance development and deliver essential services. He cited the countries like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa which currently charge the VAT on petroleum products saying the projects will be stagnated in case the tax is suspended.

Speaker Justin Muturi was forced to take charge of the session from Soyipan Tuya who had hard time in controlling the unruly legislators who chanted “Zero tax!” “Duale must go!” “Mbadi must go!”

The opposing Members of Parliament, who failed to raise the required quorum of 233 members to veto Kenyatta’s tax proposal accused the Majority leader and others of masterminding vote rigging. They vowed to go to court to challenge the decision in court. They also threatened to impeach the speaker for overseeing the passing of the controversial amendments.

“This was a special sitting to discuss issues of national importance. It turned into dictatorship,” reiterated Laikipia Women Representative Catherine Waruguru, one of those who opposed the bill.

The Finance Bill 2018 was tossed back to parliament by the President for further discussion after the house had sought to have the 16% VAT on fuel be suspended for another two years.

The Bill will see Kenyans digging deeper in their pockets to cater for the high cost of living. It targets to tax 1.5% of employees’ salaries, mobile phone transaction excise duty from 10-20%, excise duty on bank transaction from 12-20% and cost of internet data is expected to shoot up by 15%.


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