Senators go after Matiangi in betting firms crackdown

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi in a recent tour in Kisii County. He has been launching crackdown betting firms over tax compliance. [File, Standard]

The Senate has faulted Interior Cabinet Secretary Dr Fred Matiang’i over the blanket shutdown of 27 gaming firms that have been operating in the country.

Senators want the laws regulating betting companies reviewed, claiming the powers given to the CS are being misused.

They accused the Government of playing double standards and wondered why it accused the firms of failing to remit taxes yet it had lowered remittances from 35 per cent to 20 per cent. They were referring to the Budget estimates presented to the National Assembly by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich in June.

Reacting to a statement on the gambling row sought by Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala in House yesterday, senators cautioned that the country cannot be run by fiat.

“We do not want to live in a country that public policies depend on the CS sitting in the office instead of the rule of law,” said Malala.

He argued that the shutting down of text codes and paybill numbers of the companies was ill-advised, and that gamblers will not be able to withdraw or deposit money.

“The funds will remain in the gaming wallets of the affected gaming companies until this impasse is resolved,” he noted.

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He censured the Betting Control and Licensing Board and the CS for revoking permits of betting companies and signing deportation papers of 17 foreign directors last week.

“The reason advanced for this shutdown range from taxation, morality and money laundering claims that have rocketed the financial sector. Suppose these claims were valid, the Government should have invoked the provisions of the Betting, Lottery and Gaming Act about the forfeiture of licence and security on conviction and disqualification of the betting firms and not engage in the blanket condemnation of the companies," said the lawmaker.

Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen (Elgeyo/Marakwet) said minister's power should be exercised with responsibility.

“The minister's powers are donated by the Constitution and can be repealed. We should overhaul all gambling laws in the country. We need to understand whose responsibility is to licence and ensure the permit is protected,” said Mr Murkomen.

He said gaming is a concurrent function and, therefore, by law, there should be two levels, one dealing with policy and the other implementation.

“It's shameful that Parliament has not done anything to deal with the matter, somebody in Britain’s House of Commons raised the matter,” he noted.

Senator Ochilo Ayako (Migori) said matter is sensitive and needs proper handling.

“We should not amplify this matter, but address the concerns. We should not have a CS waking up to declare something illegal. It is not accepted in global jurisdictions,” he said.

Deputy Speaker Prof Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka/Nithi) directed a committee chaired by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei to engage with relevant authorities in Government in reviewing laws regulating betting firms.

Prof Kindiki said the social-economic effects gambling must be balanced from a legal standpoint.

“We will do this country justice by engaging stakeholders and producing a detailed report in two weeks,” he said.

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Dr Fred Matiang’iSenateGovernmentBetting firms