Gloves off as Gachagua allied MPs plot to shoot down Finance Bill

President William Ruto is seen off by his deputy Rigathi Gachagua at the JKIA as he left the country for the US on May 19, 2024. [PCS, Standard]

A section of MPs allied to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua have set in motion a scheme to oppose the Finance Bill, 2024 to send a warning to President William Ruto over his recent move of sidelining his deputy.

The MPs, who spoke to The Standard, said they will begin the plan by speaking against the Bill in churches and other public forums and now have vowed to push for "some amendments,".

Unlike the Finance Bill 2023 which saw Kenya Kwanza allied leaders waiting for a signal from the party to pass it on the floor of the National Assembly, the leaders allied to Gachagua have, this time, said they will wait for his word.

The MPs said a team of experts has been engaged to take them through the bill to avoid repeating the mistake of passing the bill without understanding it.

The politicians are running under the theme "an attack against Gachagua is an affront against Mt Kenya region and undermining Gachagua is undermining the Agikuyu community''.

They say a no to the Finance Bill 2024 will be their retaliatory game plan.

The leaders have vowed to push for an amendment to some proposals in the bill which they claim target the businesses of Mt Kenya region.

Some of the proposals are the proposed Minimum Top-Up Tax, Significant Economic Presence Tax and Motor Vehicle Tax, among others.

“It is not fair for people sitting in the Cabinet only to bring to us proposals that are confusing us. Removing the feeding programme in our schools as opposed to increasing the allocation is tantamount to fighting the very same hustlers who elected this government into power. We will be asking the Deputy President to give us direction because we can not be mark timing as opposed to going forward,” Manyatta MP Gitonga Mukunji said at a function attended by Gachagua on Sunday.

Mbeere North MP Geoffrey Ruku said the Financed Bill 2024 does not enhance the four factors of production and decried the proposed VAT for bread, noting that any taxation of goods consumed by the households on a daily basis would injure the economy.

“Any proposal coming from the Treasury which does not enhance the four factors of production, which includes land entrepreneurship and capital labour, should be discarded from debate in Parliament. We want to support these four engines of production so that we can move our nation forward. This time around, we must do justice to Kenyans,” Ruku told The Standard.

Tetu MP Geoffrey Wandeto said the bill only proposed to allocate Sh4 million towards the coffee sub-sector but intends to propose Sh117 billion towards sugarcane millers' debt.

''If we allow such proposals to pass, we shall find it rough with our people. Our senior MPs from our camp should arrange and summon us for the way forward because we don’t want to repeat a mistake. This time round we shall be very alert.  We should not allow something to be passed that will be detrimental to us when we go back to grassroots as we shall be at pains to explain it to our people,” said the MP.

Embakasi North MP James Gakuya, the frontline leader of Gachagua’s lieutenants, claims the Finance Bill 2024 sought ''to favour some regions while abandoning others’"

 “We shall be agitating for equity tax application to all, it can’t be that while sugarcane farmers will enjoy a waiver of Sh118 billion our farmers can’t get the same privilege,” the MP said.

The leaders claimed while coffee farmers were promised Sh80 per kilogramme, they were only given half of the amount while the rest was never remitted and that it was not factored in the budget estimates for 2024-2025.

The Standard has learnt that a section of experts drawn from the leading universities in Kenya and representatives of the Kenya Association of Manufacturers will engage some of the MPs, on Friday this week, to take them through the Bill.

Kieni MP Njoroge Wainaina said they want to make an informed decision and not wait for directives to approve or disapprove the bill.

“On Friday, ten MPs will engage experts who will give their impartial views on the Finance Bill so that we don’t just oppose or second it without understanding it. This time around, it will not be business as usual, of going to Parliament and approving the bill,” he said.

Githunguri MP Gathoni Wamuchomba has criticised the bill terming it ''worse than Finance Act 2023 that lead to closing of businesses.''

Wamuchomba said the top-up tax proposal will subject middle-class Kenyans to be state debtors. 

“The Top Up Tax proposes that any business person who has not attained a threshold of income tax, which is 15 per cent, the state will have to lend them 5 per cent for those businesses with 10 per cent so that they can reach the minimum threshold. This is a burden to middle-income earners because those whose businesses are worth Sh5 million and above will be exempted from the Income Tax,” she said.

She however claimed that the proposal to tax bread was a decoy to elicit mixed reactions from Kenyans and a diversionary tactic so that Kenyans do not scrutinise the top-up tax, which to her was punitive, retrogressive and aimed at surpassing middle-class Kenyans.

“The tax on bread proposal is a decoy and they will discard it after hue and cry, but it is aimed at diverting attention from the Top Up tax which is the main elephant in the room,” Wamuchomba said.