William Ruto gives mixed signals on Judiciary and his agenda for Kenya

President William Ruto with Chief Justice Martha Koome arrive at the judiciary building in Nairobi on Friday, November 04, 2022, during the launch of a report on the state of the judiciary and the administration of justice. [Collins Kweyu, Standard]

President William Ruto on Friday sent mixed signals on the independence of the Judiciary. In his speech during the launch of the Status of the Judiciary Annual Report (Sojar), the president assured that his administration would not interfere with the other arms of government.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I reiterate my commitment to live up to my pledge to Kenyans that I intend to empower the Judiciary and criminal justice system as required by the Constitution as well as respect the decisions and orders of the courts as they relate to the Executive. No more and no less,” said Ruto.

On the other hand, he implored the Judiciary not to block the quest to collect taxes or shield tax defaulters. “I want to ask the Judiciary not to give a safe haven to people running away from paying taxes. We want every citizen to carry their portion of the burden of running the affairs of the country,” said Ruto.

He had earlier asked the Kenya Revenue Authority to soften its ways of enforcing tax complaints. “There are alternative mechanisms of getting things done,” he said.

While the president was imploring judges and magistrates not to get in his way while dealing with tax cheats and defaulters, his deputy Rigathi Gachagua was telling them that Ruto’s administration would not interfere.

“I want to assure these judges seated here today, in the Ruto administration, none of us, not the president, not I or those below us, will ever take their telephone to determine a matter one way or another. That will not happen,” said Gachagua.

Ruto wants KRA to increase tax collection from Sh2 trillion in 2021/22 to Sh3 trillion by next year.

He urged the taxman to double the amount to Sh6 trillion by 2027.

He also wants all Kenyans above 18 to register for KRA’s Personal Identification Number (PIN).

Ruto also wants National Social Security Fund (NSSF) contributions increased by deducting at least six per cent of employee salary.

However, this is despite the Employment and Labour Relations Court quashing an earlier move by the government to increase the contribution tenfold. Yesterday, Ruto said his administration would not turn back on taxes and NSSF. He told the opposition to “smell the coffee”.

Employees pay Sh200 monthly towards NSSF savings. However, the president wants this increased to six per cent.

Meanwhile, the report launched yesterday and handed to Parliament by Chief Justice Martha Koome indicates between 2021 and 2022 financial year, 404,312 cases were filed, of which 257,205 were criminal cases and 147,107 civil cases.

At least 42 per cent of the cases are in five counties: Nairobi, Nakuru, Mombasa, Kiambu and Machakos.

Courts recorded a case clearance rate of 94 per cent where 381,317 cases were resolved comprising 231,415 criminal cases and 149,902 civil cases.

At the end of the financial year, 678,697 cases were pending before the courts. These cases comprised 294,278 criminal cases and 384,419 civil matters. This is an increase by five per cent from the previous year.

The Standard
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