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Leaders appeal to taxman over row with Keroche boss

Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja addressing the press in Naivasha. [Antony Gitonga, Standard]

Leaders from Nakuru County have asked the taxman to resolve its dispute with Keroche Breweries amicably for the sake of workers.

They noted that the closure of the company spelt doom for the economy of Naivasha town, adding that the company should be given a grace period to pay tax arrears.

Last week, Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) closed the factory over Sh322 million tax arrears. Addressing the press on Sunday, Keroche Breweries Chief Executive Ms Tabitha Karanja raised fears that liquor worth Sh500 million would go to waste, and that 250 workers could lose their jobs.

Earlier in a statement, Nakuru Governor Mr Lee Kinyanjui accused KRA of treating Keroche unfairly, noting that it was a major employer.

“While there may be tax matters that require redress, it would be an act of utmost betrayal to Kenyans who have built their businesses over years to be reduced to fugitives,” he said.

Youth leaders who held a press conference in Naivasha town accused KRA of being one of the causes of unemployment.

Nakuru Youth Forum Association chairman Mr Stephen Mungai noted that a majority of the people who would lose their jobs were the youth.

He said they would petition the Senate and National Assembly to act, adding that the brewer was one of the biggest employers in Naivasha.

“We support the paying of taxes but we are saddened by what is going on and we are urging the parties involved to engage each other and seek a solution,” Mr Mungai said.

He added that the company should be allowed to sell the Sh500 million liquor in their tanks to help in repaying the arrears owed to KRA.

This was echoed by another youth leader, Mr Suleiman Katana, who said the Covid-19 pandemic had affected businesses

He said the Keroche issue should not be politicised, adding that the closure would affect many at a time when the cost of living has gone up.

“We support paying of taxes but we should not kill investments and send young people home,” said Mr Katana.

Ms Naomi Gitau, a youth leader, called on the president to intervene, adding that many families and companies had not yet recovered from the pandemic.