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State accused of blackmail in Bill approval

Politics

 

 Anti-riot police officers spray water on protestors who were demonstrating against punitive taxes proposed in the Finance Bill 2024 on June 20, 2024. [Kanyiri Wahito, Standard]

President William Ruto’s administration is now facing accusations of blackmail as a last resort to ensure the passage of the Finance Bill, 2024.

Yesterday, leaders from the opposition criticised the government for trying to force its hand should the Bill not sail through Parliament.

Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma said, “We have seen Ndindi Nyoro and a few others from the majority side threatening us that they will withdraw National Government- Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) and National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) funds if we do not support the Bill.

‘‘They should know that these are constitutional provisions and they can’t simply take them away.

‘‘But if keeping NG-CDF will mean imposing extra tax on our people then take it away to allow our people to survive.”

Mombasa Women Representative Zam Zam Mohammed cautioned that intimidation and blackmail would not work on MPs and that their resolve to do away with the Finance Bill was resolute.

“If reducing the budget is what will liberate our Kenyans, then do away with the NG-CDF but we will not allow the government to use this to intimidate us. We cannot pass a Bill that has proposed increasing taxes on health equipment meant to treat cancer and conduct chemotherapy, and whose net effect would be to increase the cost of healthcare,” stated Zam Zam.

“There are so many areas where we can cut our spending to spare Kenyans the suffering. That, however, should start with the Bill being withdrawn and MPs being involved in the creation of another,” she added.

Butere MP Tindi Mwale accused the Kenya Kwanza regime of taking the country back to the dark days.

According to a document seen by The Standard and introduced on the floor of the House by the Budget and Appropriations Committee chair Ndindi Nyoro, the National Treasury has come up with a contingency plan that could see the Appropriations Bill altered should the Finance Bill flop.

Speaker Moses Wetang’ula dismissed the blackmail allegations from the opposition, noting that there was nothing “untoward” with the (National Treasury) advisory.

“… any negative imbalance between the ways and means by the House ultimately results in a fiscal deficit. This deficit can only be addressed through borrowing, enhanced taxation or reduction of the estimates of expenditure.”

Wetang’ula added,” As members will recall, any borrowing sanctioned by the House must strictly adhere to the threshold prescribed by this House in line with section 50 of the Public Finance Management Act and the principles outlined under Article 211 of the Constitution that cautions against overburdening future generations with unnecessary debt.

The Speaker said, “Honourable members, all things considered, my reading of the advisory from the National Secretary Cabinet Secretary is that it constitutes a reminder to the House of its constitutional and statutory obligations.

“I do not view it as a directive. The House is merely being urged to factor in this increased expenditure when considering the ways and means of financing the approved supply.”

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Prof Njuguna Ndung’u has proposed a Sh900 billion cut of the recurrent expenditure (for the provision of sanitary towels) under the National Government Affirmative Action Fund and a further Sh600 million in the medical vote.

Also targeted is a Sh15 billion cut from the National Government- Constituency Development Fund kitty, Sh15.1 billion from ongoing roads projects, Sh11.6 billion from various projects under the water development agencies and a further Sh7.75 billion from security operations and modernisation under the Ministry of Defence.

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