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KRA insists clearing agents must be vetted before licences are renewed

By Lee Mwiti | Published Sun, February 26th 2017 at 00:00, Updated February 25th 2017 at 22:44 GMT +3
Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General John Njiraini. (Photo: David Njaaga/Standard)

The Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) has dug its heels in on rules it introduced this year governing business licence applications for clearing gents.

While the agents want the revenue agency to release their licences unconditionally, KRA has insisted they must undergo vetting by April 1. The process entails filing bio-data forms where the agents will disclose crucial information about their business operations and clients.

This, KRA said, would curb the rampant corruption witnessed at the ports and help fight drug trafficking.

In earlier communication, KRA Commissioner General John Njiraini said the agents must be vetted to ascertain their suitability, combat fraud, as well as ensure they conform to tax requirements.

“Given the importance of clearing and forwarding services in safeguarding national security and public revenue, it is imperative that persons entrusted with this role exhibit the highest standards of ethical and business conduct. The ongoing vetting process to evaluate applicant suitability is meant to achieve this objective prior to the renewal of licences,” Mr Njiraini said.

But the agents have vowed to resist the vetting, maintaining that all KRA customs officials who work at entry points must also be vetted.

Under the umbrella of the Kenya International Freight and Warehousing Association (KIFWA), the agents said they would stop paying taxes and ground the evacuation of cargo, which would see the taxman lose out on the Sh3 billion they help KRA collect every day.

“The customs officials must all be vetted first before we agree to be vetted because they are the main perpetrators of this corruption,” KIFWA spokesperson William Ojonyo said.

The agents also accused KRA of bribing their former union officials to agree with the vetting plans. At a meeting last week, they voted to hold new KIFWA elections.

The agents also accused the taxman of working with some international logistics companies to undermine local agents. They said the international companies that have agreed to be vetted by KRA do not serve the local industry, and therefore do not understand its needs.

The agents have been on a go-slow since the beginning of the year, and have threatened to go on strike and paralyse trade in the East African region— which depends on the Port of Mombasa—if their grievances are not addressed.