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Nadco report, a betrayal of poll protest victims

Opinion

 

 National Dialogue Committee co-chairs Kalonzo Musyoka and Kimani Ichungwah. [File, Standard]

The National Dialogue Committee report that was formally adopted in Parliament this week does not reflect its foundations nor activities that led to its formation.

When Kenyans went to the streets in the Azimio and civil society-led protests early last year, the rallying call was ‘Unga’. Kenyans were expressing their frustrations over unmet promises and deliberate increase in taxes and rates. They were demonstrating over cost of power, which has nearly doubled.

However, the meat of the NADCO report is a regurgitation of a memorandum presented by President William Ruto in December 2022. The memo contained proposals to establish the Office of Leader of Opposition and enact in the Constitution three funds, namely the National Government Constituencies Development Fund, the Senate Oversight Fund to be managed by senators, and the National Government Affirmative Action Fund.

At the time, Azimio leader Raila Odinga seemed to have been irked that President Ruto, who was initially opposed to the BBI report, seemed to be making similar recommendations. In 2023, he made good on his threat to lead nationwide protests. Tens of Kenyans were killed, hundreds brutalised, and a number of businesses suffered losses of unquantifiable proportions. Anything from NADCO to show for it?

First, the suggestion to revert VAT on petroleum products and scrap the Affordable Housing Tax was flatly rejected. On fuel, the report only recommends a reduction of Sh5 on the road maintenance levy and Sh3 on the anti-adulteration levy.

However, the report makes recommendations that no one can track and in reality, will only rely on goodwill. First, it recommends that the National Executive, Parliament, Judiciary, County Executives, Assemblies, and Commissions reduce their budgets by 50 per cent in three years.

The report also recommends a reduction in per diems by 30 per cent and reduction of hospitality and general office supplies budget by 50 per cent. These are beautiful recommendations that never needed a National Dialogue Committee to sit on.

Again, analysing them against the backdrop of various reports by the Controller of Budget and the Auditor General reveals that it will be foolhardy to believe they will be implemented. As far as the cost of living is concerned, the 2024–25 budget cycle was the best opportunity to demonstrate that NADCO made sense. According to the report, by February, the National Treasury should have done a comprehensive review of the tax regime with a focus on expanding the tax base and lowering tax burden.

No one other than the co-chair of the NADCO and Azimio principal Kalonzo Musyoka is already raising objections to the Budget Policy Statement for 2024–2025. According to him, an analysis by experts reveals an extra tax burden.

Though it makes great recommendations, the NADCO report does not capture what took Kenyans to the streets.

The writer is anchor Radio Maisha

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