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Kimani Kuria: The President's Finance Mr Fix It

 Molo MP Kuria Kimani [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Many would love to hate him, if they could pick him out of a crowd - something that is becoming easier after the year he has had.

On the morning of June 14, a clean-shaven man in a grey suit, cream shirt, and dark blue tie rose before an attentive House to move that the controversial Finance Bill 2023 be read for the second time.

In exactly 35 minutes, Francis Kimani Kuria, the MP for Molo and chair of the finance committee of the National Assembly, dissected the entire Bill clause by clause, dishing out mathematical figures from his fingertips, and dropping comparative case studies with ease.

His committee had, after one of the most comprehensive public participations undertaken on a Bill, retained controversial clauses, knocked down others, and moderated many others.

“We listened to views of Kenyans and they told us it is good to build affordable houses in Kenya, that mortgages remain in the sphere of the privileged. They agreed it is going to lead to job creation. But they also told us that it is too punitive, discriminative, and we proposed a reduction of 3 per cent apiece for employer and employee to 1.5 each,” he said of the controversial housing levy.

Closing his presentation, he offered free civic education to both MPs and Kenyans; that tax exemption and zero rating are not the same thing. They are as different as, in his words, heaven and Earth.

A few months earlier, his appointment to chair the committee had been a pleasant surprise. As an MP starting his second term in the House and a fairly younger one at that, he had thought that the old hands at the game would take it.

But the Kenya Kwanza government had swept into power riding on a strong wave of youth empowerment.

So there he was at 33, leading a committee that would lend stamps of approval to every single one of the Ruto government's ambitious plans. The Finance Bill 2023 thrust young Kuria into the national limelight, but was equally a baptism of fire of sorts.

On account of its provisions, the Opposition declared days of national demonstrations, which cost property and lives.

In an interview with the Sunday Standard, the affable legislator admitted that the period between planning until when the Finance Bill became an Act was the most challenging in his political career.

“As a chair, vetting of Treasury CS and other commissioners was fairly easy until the Finance Bill period. That was a real test of time. I used to enjoy taking walks in town, but now I cannot. I remember during that period I attempted walking to town from Parliament and people noticed me and started calling me the 'Finance Guy'. I had to call my driver to pick me up. I lost my privacy, something that I enjoy so much, but I have no regrets,” said Kuria.

During that period, he said, his family hardly saw him. He would leave home at 6am and get back at 2am or 3am the following day since most of the meetings would end around 1am.

“As a chair, I had to intentionally go through every section of the Bill to understand it and be able to explain it to Kenyans in layman’s language. It was challenging, but I am glad it was approved,” he said.

His background in finance also came in handy, and in the end, he ended up proving he was the right man for that job.

Looking back at his journey, Kuria admits that his being a national leader stemmed from the influence of those he represents. He never thought he would become what he is right now.

 Kuria Kimani goes through the Finance Bill during a retreat in Naivasha. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

“I was never involved in any form of politics before 2017 even in campus. Mine is just, but a favour from those who felt I could make a good leader, the people of Molo. I come from a humble background and I was raised by a single parent. This means that my education was majorly supported by villagers and so after getting a job, I wanted to help those that helped me,” he said.

“I realised the yields of our farmers were not doing so well then, and so, when I got my dividends from a Sacco I was a member, I gathered my villagers and gave them seeds and fertilisers.

"For some reason, that year’s harvest did well and what started as a simple giving back, grew to become the Kimani Kuria Foundation. People would call me for harambees, and others would come to me for help when their children were in need, which is why I decided to run for office.”

Six years in, Kuria says he has learnt a lot both from an individual perspective and as a national leader. His experience in chairing the Finance Committee has particularly been illuminating.

“I have learnt so many lessons during the Finance Bill and one of the main things is that Kenyans are informed, and they want to be involved in the running of the country. That means that we need an open public system that involves Kenyans in the running of their country.

“In the entire Finance Bill, for example, there are things that Kenyans did not want or they were against for example the VAT on fuel. What was not clear was that we were not increasing the tax from zero to 16. No. The tax was being increased from eight to 16 and we needed to do that,” he said.

He said the biggest problem they faced during the Finance Bill was misinformation as some politicians used it negatively to influence Kenyans.

However, in the whole scheme of it all was the betterment of Kenyans. He says he would support it over and over again.

He believes that with better planning and implementation of the Act, better days are ahead for Kenyans to realise the return on their investment. His priority for the moment is to deliver the promises he made to the people of Molo, Nakuru County.

Kuria is married to his campus sweetheart Winnie and they are blessed with two children. They, however, support many other children through his foundation.

For him, giving and improving the lives of others is what pushes him every day; to hold someone’s hand in whichever way possible.

If he ever gets tired of the political space, Kuria a certified accountant, says he will go back to teaching Finance. For now, however, every space above his current post as MP is a good game for him.

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