Tax evaders funding Raila rallies – Ruto
President William Ruto has accused tax evaders of being behind the weekly political rallies staged by Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga.
According to the President, tax cheats have been financing the opposition to slow him down on his efforts to get big defaulters to pay what they owe the government.
He maintained that every Kenyan was obligated to pay taxes regardless of their social or political status.
He said that there were leaders trying to whip up public emotions about the high cost of living and taxation so as to manoeuvre their way out of paying taxes.
“Even if they sponsor demonstrations, there will be no escape; everyone must pay tax. I want to tell them they must pay tax, we are going to have a fair share of the burden of payment of taxes and raising revenue,” Ruto told MPs attending the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference in Mombasa yesterday.
“We cannot operate in a space where those in power exempt themselves from paying taxes.”
His sentiments came in the wake of complaints from some Kenyans who have accused his administration of overtaxing them.
There have also been protests about the taxman’s plans to target digital money transfers for taxation.
And in Nairobi, a section of senators allied to the ruling Kenya Kwanza coalition made similar allegations, accusing unnamed personalities with tax cases of financing Raila to organise anti-government protests.
On Sunday, Raila challenged Ruto to step down, claiming that Ruto did not win the August presidential election. He also urged his supporters to boycott paying high taxes.
“Accept that you were defeated in the election, leave State House for Baba to get in,” Raila said at Sunday’s Jacaranda Grounds rally. “Kenyans deserve a leader that they elected.”
However, Ruto and his deputy, Rigathi Gachagua, have ruled out any power-sharing negotiations with Raila, arguing that the election results had demarcated roles for those who will govern and those who will be in the opposition.
Cost of living
Ruto has been challenging MPs to pass a Bill setting up the office of Leader of Official Opposition and set out his duties and responsibilities.
Responding to Raila’s decision to hold weekly rallies, Nyeri Senator Wahome Wa Matinga yesterday said: “We have information which we will make public in the coming days about the individuals backing the opposition chief to malign the Kenya Kwanza government.”
Other senators, who included John Methu (Nyandarua) and James Murango (Kirinyaga), urged the government not to relent in its crackdown on tax evaders and its determination to widen the tax bracket.
“We will support all efforts made by the President and his government to force tax cheats to pay what they owe Kenyans,” said Methu.
In Mombasa, President Ruto said the government had not imposed additional taxes on Kenyans as alleged by the opposition.
He asked Kenyans to remain calm as his administration was working round the clock to address the high cost of living that has pushed up the prices of basic commodities, including electricity and food.
“We have a serious economic challenge, and we will get it resolved through sober intervention. It’s not a matter we can come out of overnight,” said Ruto.
National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi had earlier criticised the Ruto administration, saying the cost of living has been going up despite campaign promises that it will come down.
He said Parliament had the power to compel the Executive to take steps to reduce the cost of living but there was a section of the legislators unwilling to do that.
“There are complaints that among other things the cost of living is constantly increasing. We have the power to compel the Executive to act on those complaints,” Wandayi said.
In his rejoinder, National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung’wa accused Wandayi of trying to introduce party politics in the meeting.
He said grandstanding would not take Kenya forward.
“We must never allow grandstanding to stand in the way of our decisions to the disadvantage of our people,” Ichung’wa said.
The voice of reason, he said, must prevail for the benefit of the people.
In his Sunday rallies, Raila has been piling pressure on the Ruto administration to reduce the cost of living and reduce high taxes.
However, the President has in the past said he intends to widen the tax bracket and reduce reliance on debt to fund the national Budget.
Yesterday, he asked MPs to take advantage of the ongoing seminar to equip themselves with knowledge on matters of Budget making.
“We cannot continuously have an oversized Budget and imagine we can manage it. I will be presenting shortly a revised Budget that will handle pledges made to the electorate,” he said.
Speaker of the National Assembly Moses Wetang’ula asked MPs to stick to their jurisdiction and ensure a seamless relationship between the Legislature and the Executive.
Ichung’wa, while addressing delegates, said the seminar had come at a good time when the House was preparing to venture into the Budget-making process, which will culminate in the presentation of the Budget estimates in Parliament in mid-June.
“We must rise above self-interest to safeguard the interest of the electorate,” he said.
“Parliament is legally bound to serve the people. It’s a challenge today, as the 13th Parliament, we must take the right decisions to ensure grandstanding and political party positions do not stand before the will of our people,” he added.