Harvard man Wattanga picked for top KRA job in new era for agency

The newly appointed Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General Humphrey Wattanga. [Courtesy]

Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung'u has appointed Humphrey Wattanga as the new Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner-General, ending a fierce succession race for the coveted public office.

The selection of the Harvard University-trained scientist signals the government's intention to choose an outsider for the top KRA position, which greatly impacts the economy's performance.

Until his appointment yesterday evening, Wattanga served as a commissioner and vice-chairman of the Commission on Revenue Allocation (CRA), where he encouraged county governments to enhance their self-generated revenue.

Wattanga, with an extensive background as a financial advisor in the US, boasts over 20 years of experience in financial advisory roles across Africa.

He co-founded AFCORP Investments, a pan-African investment advisory firm based in South Africa, and was recently chosen as the managing director of Meghraj Capital, a local private equity firm.

He will hold the role of KRA Commissioner-General for a three-year term starting from August 22.

Harvard University

Wattanga, who has an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from Harvard University, and an MBA from the Wharton School, takes over at a time when the agency faces pressure from the Executive to increase revenue collection.

Additionally, he will be expected to foster harmony within the agency during an ongoing reorganisation of KRA's senior management team, under the supervision of Anthony Mwaura, the former elections chief of the ruling United Democratic Alliance party. Mwaura was appointed by President William Ruto as KRA chairman until November 1, 2025.

KRA, which has perennially missed its targets, is facing an uphill task of raising enough revenue to support the Sh3.6 trillion budget of President William Ruto's administration.

"He needs to push collections, widen the tax net, push use of technology to track evaders, and make the TIMS/ETIMS system easy to use," said Nikhil Hira, tax expert and partner at Kody Africa.

KRA has been under pressure to seal revenue leaks against the backdrop of higher collection targets set by the Ruto administration.

President Ruto has frequently voiced frustration with KRA's failure to meet targets, urging the tax agency to eliminate corruption and adopt technology for improved collections.

His administration aims to expand the country's tax base and enhance revenue to fulfill election promises in the upcoming fiscal year.

In May of this year, Ruto alleged that corrupt employees at Times Tower were colluding with tax evaders, renewing calls for a cleanup of the tax agency.

He said there was an elaborate tax evasion syndicate involving rogue senior KRA employees, warning this might explain the taxman's inability to reach targets.

"Collusion, wanton bribe-taking, and general corruption continue to pervade operations of KRA, facilitating tax evasion, massive leakages of potential revenue, and inability to meet revenue targets," said Ruto while filing his tax returns at KRA headquarters.

A much-awaited purge to rid the agency of rogue workers is yet to publicly kick-off, though, with anti-graft agencies remaining tight-lipped.

The Standard earlier learned that on the radar of investigative agencies seeking to crack the multi-billion-shilling syndicate include senior managers, some board members and low-ranking staff.

Sources in government told us that rogue businessmen have been colluding with KRA officers to manipulate KRA systems to reduce tax liabilities.

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