By Jerry Okungu
June 25, 2011
When you see MPs bragging that they will not pay taxes to the taxman; don’t blame them.
They know where they are drawing their arrogance from. That arrogance is first and foremost from Speaker Kenneth Marende. The man has been against taxation since the debate started in 2008.
When in early 2008 MPs Peter Kenneth and Johnson Muthama volunteered to pay taxes, Marende sarcastically told them to go ahead on a voluntary basis. He did not see their actions as honorable that should have been emulated by the entire house.
It is ironical that the Speaker of the National Assembly that just two weeks ago admonished the Finance Minister for violating the constitution with his budget speech can today violate the same constitution by not only refusing to pay tax but to also incite other MPs against the taxman simply because he stands to benefit from this immoral tax evasion.
Let this columnist state categorically that all Kenyans are behind John Njiraini’s decision to auction those MPs that will have not complied with the nation’s taxation law. And yes, this poor nation will throw its weight behind the President, the Prime Minister, new Chief Justice and Chairman of the Constitution Implementation Commission to ensure that our rogue MPs comply or face jail terms. The law is the law and must be obeyed by all citizens irrespective of positions or status in society.
For many decades, the Kenyan civil society trained their guns on the much maligned Executive arm of the government and accused it of all the sins that had brought our great nation into disrepute. All this time the Judiciary and Parliament got away with murder under the pretext that under Kenyatta and Moi, the Executive had emasculated them.
However, since Parliament started exercising its independence in 2003, we have seen dangerous trends developing in that house under the so called Parliamentary Service Commission. Through that body, the august house has robbed Kenyans blind first under Speaker Ole Kaparo and now under Kenneth Marende in the last nine years. The most glaring of this robbery has been the insensitive salary increases with their attendant tax evasion devices.
In the present Kenya under the current constitution, Kenyans cannot allow the likes of Marende to lead important public institutions such as Parliament if indeed their personal greed takes precedent over the welfare of Kenyans. Indeed any Kenyan that cannot pay taxes when he should do so is unfit to be in any public office.
Under the old constitution, it was a free- for- all- affair where state officials who had the power to rob the Kenyan public did so with impunity, at times with legal assistance from the Attorney General who was equally a beneficiary of such excesses. Somehow, the same officials that served under the old constitution do not seem to appreciate that their time is up and the old ways must be discarded.
Now that we have the Supreme Court, a new Chief Justice and a new Deputy Chief Justice that seem to put more weight on the rule of law; the writing must be on the wall for those MPs that still think Kenya is a looters’ paradise. With the judiciary and other constitutional office holders accepting to pay taxes, Kenyans are waiting to see which special powers the MPs have that will shield them from taxation. Will Kenneth Marende protect them? Will they threaten the Executive by refusing to pass government bills like they have done before? Will they use militias, the police or the military to stop the taxman from attaching their salaries, bank accounts and other property?
Judging by news reaching me from Nairobi, it would look like Dr. Willy Mutunga and Nancy Baraza will do Kenya proud by leading through their good examples. If they can subject themselves to taxation, one wonders how a court case lodged by MPs in the Supreme Court will pass the test. Judging by the mood in the country, even a kindergarten kid should know that such a case will have been lost even before it is heard.
The other good news is the fact that the new CJ has decided to appoint a three man tribunal to investigate one KiraikoTobiko even before he takes office. This is as it should be and yes, some of us saw it coming and even wrote about it even if Mr. Tobiko didn’t see it.
Taking a presidential appointee to the tribunal so soon after Executive appointment is proof that Kenyans have come a long way when you consider that just a few months ago, the country rejected the President’s unilateral appointments of the Chief Justice, Attorney General, and the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In the case of Tobiko, it was shameful that the same Parliament that now wants to continue evading tax chose to confirm him despite disparaging remarks and allegations against him in public hearings. Just like the Executive, Parliament chose to ignore the many voices of Kenyans that expressed their misgivings about Tobiko’s competence as Kenya’s first Director of Public Prosecutions.
Now that the new CJ has chosen to investigate Tobiko’s suitability, the man now has an opportunity to clear his name once and for all through a legal process without involving politicians from his village and guns for hire within the precincts of Parliament to support his case.
We hope that through Tobiko’s hearings, many Kenyans will understand the heavy responsibility that comes with holding a public office. Matters of integrity and ethics can no longer be taken for granted.