Race for KRA corner office hots up amid Treasury cash crunch

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Chairman Anthony Mwaura takes the oath of office during the swearing-in ceremony at the Supreme Court of Kenya in Nairobi on November 24th, 2022. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The race to pick the country’s next taxman has started after the government yesterday invited applications for the coveted hot seat.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Chairman Anthony Mwaura said the successful candidate will serve for a five-year renewable term subject to performance.

He said those eyeing the role have two weeks until April 26 to file their applications.

“A contract of employment with an attractive and competitive package will be offered to the successful candidate,” Mwaura said in a public notice.

“This position is on a five-year contract renewable once based on performance.”

The search for the top boss follows the recent radical changes at the KRA that saw its former top boss leave to pursue personal interests.

Former commissioner General Githii Mburu quit the agency in February in a series of high-profile reorganisations in top State agencies as President William Ruto tightened his hold on the levers of government after he was sworn into power last September.

Dozens of Uhuru-era power men have since been replaced by Ruto allies.

The search for a new commissioner general comes at a time the agency is under pressure from the executive to collect more revenue.

The government has instructed KRA to seal revenue leaks and boost State coffers to enable Treasury to wean itself off reliance on debt.

KRA faces the colossal task of raising enough revenue to finance the cash-strapped government’s budget amid a slowing economy and recent signs of debt distress.

The government has delayed payment of civil service salaries due to a cash squeeze caused by massive loan interest payments.

President Ruto said on Tuesday that the ongoing government cash crunch will not lead to default on debt repayments, and said the government will instead ramp up tax collections.

He has set the KRA a target to double tax collections by the end of his first term in 2027.

KRA is expected to collect Sh2.57 trillion in the 2023-24 financial year, 17 per cent more than the Sh2.19 trillion it is projected to collect over the current financial year to June.

“KRA has kept pace with revenue collection compared to prior year collections,” said KRA acting commissioner general Rispah Simiyu in a statement this week.

“As at the close of March 2023, revenue collection averaged 95.1 per cent on original target and 93.4 per cent on supplementary target, representing a collection of Sh1.554 trillion and a year on year eight per cent growth.” 

KRA will need to collect up to Sh636 billion or Sh7 billion every day to hit its earlier target of Sh2.19 trillion between March and June.

Previous holders of the taxman's post were tapped for three-year terms.

The KRA board said willing applicants must have knowledge of fiscal and tax policy and administration and at least 15 years of working experience, of which 10 must be in senior leadership in large public or private firms.

The February KRA changes also saw the appointment of seven acting commissioners.

Mr Mburu, a former intelligence boss at the KRA, took over the corner office at Times Towers following his appointment by former Treasury Secretary Henry Rotich in 2019.

He succeeded John Njiraini who had left office at the end of his tenure and served since March 2012.

Past KRA bosses include Michael Waweru (2003-2012), John Munge (2001-2003), John Msafari (1998-2001) and Yusuf Nzibo (1996-1998).

Until his appointment over three years ago to one of Kenya’s most coveted public offices, Mburu headed KRA’s covert intelligence arm, serving as the commissioner for Intelligence and Strategic Operations.

KRA has in recent years been using various technologies and databases to pursue suspected tax cheats.

It is during Mburu’s reign that KRA broke its tax collection record to hit the Sh2 trillion mark.

However, data shows that tax collection in the first six months of the current financial year fell short of the new government’s target by Sh43.2 billion.

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