Tuesday, December 16, 2008



By Jerry Okungu
Atlanta, Georgia
December 16, 2008

As Parliament battles to trim the powers of the Executive, it would appear like our own honorable MPs are equally under siege. As they torment President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga from time to time with threats to defeat crucial legislation that would put the credibility of the two leaders on the line, it would appear like their worst nightmare are the ordinary people of Kenya who are adamant that the MPs must face the taxman like every ordinary Kenyan.

It would seem that since June 2008, when Amos Kimunya read his last budget speech in Parliament, he bequeathed to ordinary Kenyans a crucial weapon with which to torment their insensitive Parliament. And despite the same MPs sending Kimunya packing from the prestigious Treasury Building, the war against MPs on taxation is far from over.

In the early days of the debate on the Finance Bill, one MP was heard bragging that he could not be expected to pay tax as that would reduce him to the poverty levels of his constituents.
What he didn’t know at that time was that the media would finally interpret his statement to mean that he despised the very voters who brought him to Parliament in the first place. Since then, the same MP has gone mute on taxation.

A few weeks later, the Speaker of the National Assembly was on record telling Kenyans that for MPs; they have the choice to either pay taxes or sit pretty on their cash and no taxman would dare touch them. When Kenyans reminded the Speaker that paying taxes is a mandatory obligation and not voluntary undertaking, he too went mute.

Some time back at a rally in Kisii, another senior politician was heard lamenting that asking MPs to surrender their taxes was like asking them to shave themselves; a task he considered difficult to do. Yet, as a leader, he had not asked many barbers at the Times Tower to come for his head. In the same function, two cabinet ministers promised to consider paying taxes but only if they got the assurance that their deductions would be channeled to their respective constituencies for their people’s development.

Now Energy Minister Kiraitu Murungi is calling on Kenyans to give MPs more time before asking them to start paying their taxes. He claims that most MPs are in debt and could be financially embarrassed if they started paying their taxes to day.
He confidently says that the Finance Bill of 2008 ambushed the House on taxation and that had the issue been raised at the beginning of the year, MPs would not have had problems adjusting.

Murungi is perhaps unaware that ordinary Kenyans are never given time or options when it comes to tax. They either pay or go to jail after all their movable and immovable property have been attached. The taxman never has the time to debate with defaulters. This is the practice worldwide, more so in civilized societies where citizens elect responsible representatives who understand that paying taxes is a national duty rather than a game of ping pong.

As to whether MPs should have been forewarned about their taxes early in the year; perhaps the honorable minister has forgotten that Kenyans had no beginning of the year this time round. After the elections, we went to war against each other again; for the sake of the very MPs. It was not until April 2008 that we had some semblance of a government.

The good Minister is saying that out of his one million shillings monthly paycheck, he only takes home one hundred thousand which is less than half of what the taxman is demanding.
Fair enough but can someone remind the Minister that taxation is never based on personal commitment. It is based on gross income and only after that can you spend the net income as you choose. More importantly, paying taxes has always been and will always be a non-negotiable obligation to the state.

Just in case MPs have forgotten, we pay taxes to the state so that the state can provide us with common services such as roads and bridges, education, healthcare, energy, infrastructure, shelter and general well being of its citizens.

On the bright side of things; it was gratifying to see Hon William Ruto join a growing list of responsible citizens by authorizing the KRA to begin deducting his paycheck. It is only fair that more ODM MPs join this group of sensible politicians.