Tuesday, December 2, 2008




We reiterate from the outset that our Page One comments appertain to compelling matters of public interest.

This year, we have on five occasions dwelt on key issues confronting our nation. When the post-election dispute and violence threatened to tear the fabric of our nation apart, we were candid in calling for power sharing. We urged the protagonists, PNU and ODM, to share power and create additional constitutional positions.

Recently, when political leaders wavered over the recommendations of the Waki commission, we were resolute that they had no choice but to implement them.

The outcome of the political settlement and current thinking on the Waki Report serve as testimony of our authoritativeness as a media house.

But we hasten to add that we claim no clairvoyance.

MPs recent rejection of a law to tax their Sh600,000 allowances is yet another matter of national importance.

Like other Kenyans, we demand that MPs must pay tax on their allowances. Their chicanery to have only Sh200,000 (the salary) taxed and leave Sh600,000 (allowances) untouched is a clever way — if it can be called that — of robbing the Kenyan people.

Here is a group of so-called leaders, but they want to be led on matters taxation. Have they forgotten that the Sh800,000 monthly income, the Sh10

car grant, among other perks, do not grow on trees? And as if this is not enough, the last Parliament had the audacity to give itself a Sh1.5 million send off!

Has this country pampered Parliament so much that the 222 members see themselves as the gift to Kenya?

What a preposterous attitude! In the last Budget, former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya proposed taxation of MPs allowances and salaries of constitutional office holders such as the AG, judges and Public Service Commission members. The rationale is not difficult to see. In these hard times, it is crucial that every citizen contributes to propping up the nation.

Then, MPs foot-thumped.

If the country took that for approval, it was mistaken. When the Finance Bill — proposals on annual spending and taxation measures — was about to be taken to Parliament, the MPs bared their fangs: They would shoot it down, essentially shutting down Government functions, if the clause on taxing their allowances saw the light of day.

The rest is history.

The MPs, in what is called the Committee of Ways and Means, deleted the clause. But public anger was and still is undiminished. How can a group that is not more Kenyan than anybody else arrogate itself the role of determining taxation of others, but not itself? How more arrogant can they get — it is either their tax-free allowances or closure of Government? Hasn’t the nation watched in disbelief as MPs, and even Cabinet ministers, say they will only pay tax if the money goes to the Constituency Development Fund? That they can’t have the money go to central Government. And these are ministers in Government and of Government!

MPs have been contradiction itself since the taxation debate began. The other day, they debated the maize crisis: They foamed in the mouth over millers and some of their colleagues’ alleged connection to the dearth of the staple food. Yet they could not see that they, too, in refusing to pay tax were not any better.

Playing to gallery

MPs have adopted the game of playing to the gallery. They mount podiums and proclaim their desire to be taxed. But do not fall for these shenanigans. Those who wanted to be taxed should have stood to be counted on the day the clause was deleted from the Finance Bill. How many MPs have written to the taxman or the Clerk of the National Assembly to say Yes to taxation?

But if MPs think they are home and dry, they have stumbled where they thought they were safest. This country is united in its opposition to MPs’ free ride. The fundamental question must be how, and never whether MPs should pay tax.


Further, we aver that legislators are the creation of the people. Legislators, therefore, derive power to legislate and appropriate resources from the people.

Taxes are the main source of Government resources for development. When a section of the population usurps delegated power to exempt themselves from paying for this cause, they lose the legitimacy to determine distribution of resources.

As a country and a people, we are confronted with a scenario where those we elect use their authority to preserve individual and collective selfish interests.

In rejecting taxation of their allowances, MPs collective action amounts to a flagrant abuse of authority. Though legislators imagine that they hold the reigns of legislative power, we remind them that it is the people who have the ultimate power.

And they will prevail.

As a people, we must deny MPs the right to determine their salaries or taxation. We must demand an independent process to review and determine remuneration of MPs. We ask the Leader of Government Business in Parliament and the Prime Minister to lead in asking the House to discuss taxation as a matter of national importance.

We commend MPs who have decided to voluntarily pay taxes. We urge those still wavering to rethink their positions. We ask those wishing to join a growing list of honour to be resolute and declare their stand on this important national matter!