Azimio accuses Kenya Kwanza of insincerity in Finance Bill concessions

National Assembly joint-sitting of the Departmental Committee on Finance co-chairs John Kiarie and Kuria Kimani, April 5, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

The stage has been set for a major showdown between Azimio la Umoja One Kenya and Kenya Kwanza Alliance over the Finance Bill 2023 which is set to be debated today.

The opposition - despite President William Ruto's concessions to the Bill - yesterday vowed to shoot it down, accusing him of insincerity in recent amendments to the controversial Bill.

Azimio's parliamentary leadership is now calling on President Ruto to withdraw the Bill in its entirety and re-introduce a new people friendly one.

On Monday, the National Assembly Finance and National Planning Committee announced that it had retreated and amended some of the contentious clauses in the fiscal Bill that was tabled on the floor of the House yesterday.

But whereas the committee reviewed downwards the three percent housing levy to 1.5 per cent of basic pay, it retained the proposal to double VAT on fuel from the current 8 per cent to 16 per cent.

"Should the Finance Bill be passed as it is then the government should be prepared for some unspecified action on July 3, 2023 which is going to be on a Monday," said National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi.

Mr Wandayi further termed the proposed amendments too little, too late saying they were insignificant, emphasizing that as long as the VAT on petroleum products remains at 16 per cent, the cost of living will skyrocket.

"Our opposition to the Bill is as strong as ever. We are going to shoot it down during debate," he said.

Saboti MP Caleb Amisi who called on the President to recall the entire Bill and re-introduce another one.

Mr Amisi said the attempt by Kenya kwanza to tweak a few clauses are just dirty tricks used by governments to try and cool down the anger of citizens.

"Other than the housing levy that has whipped up emotions, there are a lot of other things in that Bill that cannot be amended as trying to do so would only amount to creating a totally new Bill. We can only support the Bill if they introduce a completely new bill," stated the legislator.

Deputy Minority leader Robert Mbui also expressed distrust in Kenya Kwanza.

"First the amendments may be rejected by their members in the House. Secondly they do not meet our threshold. As long as they retain the 3 per cent turnover tax, and 16 per cent VAT on fuel and the advance tax on PSVs and other transporters, the cost of living will still go up and that is what we were opposed to," he said.

Suna East MP Junet Mohamed said the opposition is waiting to see the contents of the committee report that is expected to be tabled in the National Assembly before they take a position on the matter.

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"Then we will take a position on it again. What is there has not been officially tabled," Junet said.

MPs Lilian Gogo (Rangwe) and Joshua Oron (Kisumu Central) vowed to oppose the Bill arguing that it contains clauses that will hurt Kenyans.

Dr Gogo cited high taxation on fuel saying it will increase the cost of living. "Taxation on oil will make the cost of living to shoot up. The Bill contains many other clauses which will make life unbearable for Kenyans," she said.

"I will vote No on behalf of the people of Rangwe Constituencies," she added.

Mr Oron said the changes that have been proposed are insignificant and will not have any impact. He argues that the Bill is still a monster to taxpayers and will hurt them.

"The adjustments on the Finance Bill are too little too late. Housing levy remains an unjust tax and should not be allowed to go through this house. Cost of living is high as it is and adding additional tax of any kind will make life more difficult and unbearable. I will therefore still oppose the Finance Bill in total and vote no," he said.

Uriri MP Mark Nyamita, who is among eight ODM MPs who have embraced the new administration, said they will interrogate the Bill and vote clause by clause.

"What we had initially were proposals and we are waiting for the Bill to be tabled on the floor of the House. For me I would not blatantly condemn the Bill," Eng Nyamita said.

But in a rejoinder, the Finance and Housing Committee Chairman Kimani Kuria said that they had taken into consideration the views of Kenyans to make concessions on the Bill to the best of their ability.

He defended the decision to double VAT on fuel from 8 to 16 per cent, saying that noting the negative impact of retaining the 8 per cent outweighs the positive.

"The government stands to lose as petroleum businesses become perpetual creditors which then impacts quality of service delivery by the Government to the citizenry. Therefore, this calls for an end to the subsidised rate of 8 per cent," he said.

[Additional reporting by Clinton Ambujo, Anne Atieno and James Omoro]

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