Friday, June 20, 2008




Daily Nation
Publication Date: 6/20/2008

Our Members of Parliament expose themselves for what they are by coming out so vociferously against proposals that they pay taxes like everybody else. All the reasons they cite against the proposal simply do not hold water.

Kenyans are taxed very heavily to enable the Government meet its obligations to the people, which include provision of social services such as health and education, in addition to investment in development projects.

It has been a clarion call of this Government that people pay their taxes so that the State can have the funds to provide the expected services. All that the MPs and other leaders are being asked to do is to lead by example and also pay their full share of taxes.

The MPs are not being asked to make any unreasonable sacrifices. They are not being asked to take salary cuts or being compelled to surrender what is rightfully theirs.

All they are being asked is to abide by the tax laws that all other Kenyans are obliged to observe. That, surely, is not too much to ask.

Our MPs are extremely insensitive when they fail to grasp the feelings of their constituents on this issue. Already, the feeling is that they are a selfish, greedy and grossly overpaid lot, who spend more time and energy hatching schemes to further enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense than serving the electorate.

It is indisputable that Kenyan MPs are already very generously compensated. They are probably the highest paid legislators in the world, earning much more in per capita terms than their counterparts in Britain, the US, Germany, Switzerland, Japan and other wealthy countries.

It is thus adding insult to injury when only a quarter of their emoluments are taxed. Taxation laws in Kenya are clear that all allowances and benefits must be taxed as if they were part of the basic salary. This law was introduced specifically to catch out cheats who preferred low salaries and high allowances as a way of avoiding their tax obligations.

It therefore could qualify as tax fraud to pass legislation just so that specific cadres in positions of authority can avoid the tax laws they pass for ordinary people. These escape clauses Parliament is being asked to repeal should never have been there in the first place.

Utter contempt for voters

When MPs react so angrily to the proposal, they are displaying utter contempt for the tax-paying voters who took them to Parliament. One legislator went as far as wondering whether the proposal he pays taxes is meant to make him as miserable as his constituents!

Our answer to that is a very big Yes! MPs should happily pay their share so they can feel the pain of their people. None of the reasons MPs are giving against the proposal are convincing. The basic thread is the tired, old excuse about the heavy burden of leadership.

That is neither here nor there. They volunteered for political leadership knowing full well the demands that would be made of them. Contributing to harambees and paying school fees and medical bills for needy constituents — and all other demands on MPs’ time and pockets — comes with the territory.

The moment one decides to become an MP, he knows the job comes with all those demands. If an MP must dig deep into his pocket to retain the favour of his voters, then it must be his own pocket, and not from the public purse.

In any case, in these days of the Constituency Development Fund, Bursary Funds, Aids Fund and all sorts of public funds going direct to the constituencies, MPs have never had it so good in terms of relief from the harambee burden.

This selfish campaign by the MPs must be resisted at all costs. The people must come out clearly and say a resounding ‘‘Yes’’ to their leaders being taxed.