Treasury shouldn’t hide behind legal rituals to disregard courts

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich at a past function. (File, Standard)
The Treasury is, once again, on the spot for preferring impunity to the rule of law.

Hiding under the fold of legal technicalities, Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich’s ministry has blatantly refused to obey a court order in which the Treasury was directed to suspend the implementation of the 16 per cent value-added tax (VAT) on petroleum products.

It is a sad turn of events that throws traders, marketers and consumers of diesel, kerosene, petrol and gas further into confusion.

The High Court in Bungoma on Thursday issued conservatory orders quashing the decision by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to implement the Finance (VAT) Act 2013 which introduced the 16 per cent tax on fuels.

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No one really knows what happened in between, but there are unconfirmed reports that Treasury insisted on being served with the physical court order, an archaic legal ritual certainly at odds with the changing times.  

One can’t help but see a Treasury that is up to no good; one that is hell-bent on buying itself more time even as it continues inflicting more pain to Kenyans.

Of course, the three petitioners -- Titus Alila, Jackline Otieno, and Francis Ogada -- have the option of serving Treasury by simply publishing the court order in one of the local dailies. But this is unnecessarily costly for the two young men and woman.

And despite a last minute ditch by MPs to save consumers from the impending economic hailstorm, Treasury went ahead to implement the tax measure.

Again, the exchequer rode roughshod on a legal technicality that requires a presidential signature on a Bill before it becomes law.

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While this is the standard of the law-making process, Treasury should have delayed the implementation of the levy until President Kenyatta pronounced itself on it.

Unfortunately, Kenyans have been left in the dark. The President, who is supposed to sign the Bill into law, was outside of the country by the time we went to press. The levy is supposed to have been suspended, but nothing of the sort has happened. The National Treasury needs to clear things up. 

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Henry RotichTreasuryFuel Tax