Ruto warns MPs against shooting down Finance Bill
With the National Assembly scheduled to deliberate the controversial Finance Bill when it resumes its sittings this week, President William Ruto yesterday heightened a charm offensive to push for the proposals that have put his government on the receiving end.
In a clear indication of his determination to ensure the Bill sails through, Ruto warned his Kenya Kwanza brigade not to dare vote against it when it is tabled before the House.
The last one week has seen the President in an overdrive mode as he held personal meetings with various organisations and Members of Parliament to convince critics of the Bill and ensure that it sails through.
As if alluding to the intense lobbying that he has been engaged in, President Ruto yesterday fell short of reading a riot act to his Kenya Kwanza MPs over the Bill as he intimated that stern action would be taken against those who will fail to toe the line.
“I am waiting to see the MPs who will go against the government’s plan to give their voters employment. We want to see and know those going against this Finance Bill,”the President said in Narok during a thanks giving prayer service.
“I have heard some people saying they are waiting to see MPs who will vote for the Bill to pass, but I am equally waiting to see the members of Parliament who will vote against the Finance Bill that seeks to ensure employment of young people, introduce 5 percent housing mortgage. We are waiting to see them oppose a plan that empowers the youths who voted them to Parliament,” said the president.
“Sixty years ago we were in the same place with Singapore, Malaysia and we will not wait any longer to change the economy around, and this is the year to make this change,” he added while addressing a gathering in Narok county.
The President has held lengthy discussions with his Kenya Kwanza lawmakers, Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), Kenya Association of Manufacturers (KAM), Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE), Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU), Kenya Union of Post Primary Teachers (KUPPET), Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union (KMPDU) and the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) at State House, Nairobi.
Sources at State House also intimate that President Ruto has personally summoned individual Kenya Kwanza MPs opposed to the Bill to rope them in. He has also reached out to friendly Azimio la Umoja lawmakers in his charm offensive.
Accompanied by his deputy Rigathi Gachagua in the Narok meeting, the President said the government’s main intention of passing the Finance Bill is to help the youth get jobs, improve the economy, remove Kenyans from slums to decent houses and ensure food security.
Proposed tax measures
Multiple sources that spoke to the People Daily about President Ruto’s meetings at State House indicated that he has been categorical that the proposed tax measures were non-negotiable and that he will do everything to ensure it sails through.
“He is leaving nothing to chance. When we met him last Friday, we could tell that here is a man determined to ensure the Bill is passed. We told him the demerits contained in the Bill but he was no push over,” KAM chairman Mucai Kunyiha told the People Daily. The President is reported to have been candid with MPs in his coalition opposed to the Bill, telling them to cross over to the Opposition.
The National Assembly will resume its sittings tomorrow after a month-long recess. Upon resumption, the House is expected to consider the Finance Bill (2023) which provides for the ways and means of financing the 2023/2024 Budget.
The Finance Bill which outlines areas where the government intends to raise taxes will be tabled on June 13, two days before the presentation of the Budget. The Bill also seeks to amend various laws relating to taxes and duties with the objective of increasing government revenues from taxes collected.
But yesterday, the chairman of the Finance and Planning Committee, Kimani Kuria tasked to process the Bill confirmed that there will be amendments and urged Kenyans to be patient as his team retires to prepare a report which will be tabled in Parliament.
“The public participation which has been ongoing for the last 10 days was not in vain, we will put into consideration some of the issues which Kenyans came up with,” Kuria told People Daily.
During the hearings, the committee received over 1,000 submissions with a majority rejecting some of the proposals in the Bill. Opposition leader Raila Odinga has also threatened to mobilize Kenyans to reject the proposals should the government fail to withdraw it. The committee is this week set to have a meeting with the National Treasury Cabinet Secretary and the Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority.
Committee members intends to ask Prof Ndung’u to shed light on strategies that the national government seeks to use on funding the Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA) without reliance on donor funding.
Leader of Majority Kimani Ichungwah said the House resumes for a very busy session, especially on the two financial assignments of the Budget appropriation and the Finance Bill.
“ Our first agenda will be the budget presentation,” Ichung’wah said.
Prof Ndung’u will present the 2023/24 budget in Parliament, the first one for the Kenya Kwanza administration. He has already presented to the House the Finance Bill, 2023 in line with the law that requires him to do so to demonstrate how he intends to finance his budget.
President Ruto’s first budget since getting into power in September last year has, however, been challenged far and wide with calls for it to be shelved to allow further consultations.
Various far-reaching provisions articles in the Finance Bill have been contested as unconstitutional and already a senator has moved to court to challenge it.
Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah last week moved to court to dispute the constitutionality of 13 provisions of the bill. Omtatah in a suit filed at the Constitutional and Human Rights Division of the High Court in Nairobi, the senator wants all the provisions nullified.
Key among the contested clauses is the Housing levy of 3 per cent and the 8 per cent on fuel. But according to Ichung’wah, contrary to the accessions that the Housing levy is being forced on Kenyans, the House will consider all the amendments brought by members and the public.
“The 3 per cent levy is what came from the executive. This has been subjected to a lot of misinformation, it’s not a tax on every Kenyan contrary to that it will be voluntary on Kenyans apart from the civil servants,” Ichung’wah explained.
He added, “All is not lost, members will come up with amendments which will be considered, debated and either passed or rejected.”