Forced contributions in housing project amount to State robbing workers

Governments are not rational, they are brutes. They take what they want when they want anyhow they want. Any pretense to civility and consultation is just that: pretense.

Those in power, the defacto governments, rig elections and get away with it; they borrow billions of dollars yet you will never get to know how the loans were used. They will use the police to unleash terror on citizens exercising their democratic rights, get a few skulls caved in and we can’t do anything about it because even the courts where one would ordinarily seek redress cower before government.

The art of ‘consultation’ is a key pillar of the 2010 Constitution. Hence, it is a violation of that stipulation to force workers to surrender 1.5 per cent of their salaries to a non-starter project and this, in addition to parting with Pay-As-You Earn, fuel levy, NHIF, NSSF, insurance, road tolls, trade licenses, VAT, excise duty, custom taxes, rental income tax, entertainment tax, advance tax and property tax among others.

Most workers have no desire to own houses in the run-down, unhygienic concrete jungles that are our cities. Most already own houses, or are paying mortgages. Why is the Government intent on saddling unwilling Kenyans with more baggage? Common sense dictates that only those desirous of owning houses in cities and towns voluntarily contribute the 1.5 per cent. It should not be mandatory, for that is tantamount to daylight robbery.

Handle money

Kenyans cannot be milked dry continually to enable the thieves in government have a field day stealing that money to grow pot bellies from good feeding. A government that is as leaky as a sieve; a government that allows anybody with a rudimentary knowledge of accounting to pilfer public funds cannot be trusted to handle money forcefully taken from workers to finance a project that serves no purpose beyond cementing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s legacy.

From the outset, Kenyatta had the goodwill and chance to transform Kenya, but squandered it by letting renegades suffocate his presidency. He woke up to discover the till was empty and rushed to devise this wily plan to have Kenyans pay for sins they did not commit.

Worse, even though the president, from intelligence reports knows who stole what; like a hare, he gives the impression of one mesmerised by headlights, completely undecided which direction to take. And that is our tragedy. An indecisive presidency bodes ill for us. It is the reason no thief with access to a lawyer would be unduly worried about being caught with his hand in the cookie jar. It accounts for why those high up in government commit murder and get away with it. It is the reason none of the big fish in the multi-billion shillings’ scandals breaks a sweat over the prospects of going to jail. Instead, they dare the Government and eventually stare it down.

Act differently

Deceit defines our government. Over time, what it promised and made heavy investment in turned out disastrous. The Galana/Kulalu irrigation project is the best example of such deceit. How can Sh15 billion be pumped into a project whose return is a paltry Sh1 billion and nobody gets as much as a slap on the wrist? What about laptops for primary schools and stadia for every county? The SGR, as much as it is touted, is not only a loss maker and Chinese snare for Kenya according to economists, it has not reached Nairobi, neither does it originate anywhere near the port of Mombasa. It is inconveniencing and expensive for travelers between the two points.

A government that is unable to revive sugar industries, textile industries Kicomi and Rivatex, the Kenya Meat Commission, or even run an efficient public transport system in Nairobi and complete the slums upgrade project started by President Kibaki cannot be trusted to start anything from scratch to completion. A government that defers to cartels cannot be trusted to act differently when it comes to housing.  What guarantee do we have that the land on which the said houses will be constructed, if at all, is not owned by speculative cartels that will charge an arm and a leg for each acre sold to government as happened with SGR? Uganda balked at constructing a pipeline through Kenya because of such.

The Big Four was dead on arrival, don’t be deluded, because there was no political goodwill. A sizeable amount of money lost to corruption has been recovered. If government wants to win public trust, it should build demo housing units from the Sh1 billion salvaged through police reforms; Sh700 million and Sh352 million recovered by EACC in 2017 and 2018; the Sh3 billion the AG said had been recovered in recent times. After all, that is money that had not been factored into the budget. There are many more billions to be recovered from the thieves currently before court. Give workers space to organise their lives using the little that remains of their salaries after government raids them.

Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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