We fear Kenya is collapsing, Opiyo Wandayi says as salary delays rock government

Minority Leader in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi at Parliament Buildings on March 29, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Minority Leader in the National Assembly Opiyo Wandayi has expressed concern at the country’s economic crisis as civil servants experience unprecedented salaries delay.

His statement comes a day after The Standard established that MPs and senators would go on Easter holiday without March 2023 salaries.

“The Azimio Coalition Party is deeply concerned at the worsening economic situation in the country that has seen the government unable to meet one of its most basic obligations, which is paying its workers. We fear that this country is collapsing while we sit pretty, hoping for miracles,” Wandayi said in a press statement on Friday, April 7.

The Ugunja Member of Parliament (MP) said President William Ruto’s administration had promised to improve tax collection and expand the tax base in efforts to increase the revenue that the National Treasury receives.

“[Upon assuming office in September 2022], Kenya Kwanza immediately announced that the National Treasury, from the scrapped fuel subsidy alone, would save Sh9.49 billion. The regime then embarked on massive tax increases. In came 20 per cent tax on M-Pesa; internet transactions went up to 16 per cent, 15 per cent capital gains tax on the transfer of property, VAT on e-books and videoconferencing, the list is endless,” Wandayi said.

“The government had conceptualised that the measures were supposed to boost revenue collection to between Sh4 trillion and Sh5 trillion per year, and enable the government to finance its operations, [but that has not happened],” he said.

According to the Minority Leader, it remains unclear where collected revenue goes to.

“Where the proceeds from taxes and savings from scrapped subsidies are going, we can’t tell. The easy conclusion is that the criminals at KRA are collecting and pocketing taxes as the incompetents at the National Treasury also skim off the revenue while failing to come up with sound policies for cash flow,” he said.

The Azimio side says “people of questionable character” were appointed to key parastatals such as KRA, hence the current cash crunch facing the country.

The Azimio side now wants the Legislature to audit KRA and the revenue collection and management system to seal any loopholes.

“This state of affairs calls for bold leadership. We are calling on Parliament to take leadership and conduct an inquiry on the financial and economic crisis building up in the country before we collapse like other African countries that have gone that route,” said Wandayi.

“We believe a lot of our cash flow problems have got to do with the corruption, tribalism, nepotism, incompetence and plain theft at critical revenue collection points, starting with the KRA, in addition to wrong spending priorities,” he added.

On Thursday, April 6, at least nine MPs and senators from both Kenya Kwanza and Azimio confirmed to The Standard that they were yet to receive their March 2023 salaries.

Normally, the lawmakers receive their salaries between 26th and 30th of every month, The Standard was reliably informed.

This time around, the pay was yet to hit their accounts as of Thursday, April 6, posing a financial setback for many lawmakers as the next possible date for them to get their March salaries will be on Tuesday, April 11 due to the Good Friday and Easter Monday holidays.

The MPs said the National Treasury had cited lack of enough funds in its coffers for the delay.

“We have reached out to our members who are in the Parliamentary Service Commission to push for the pay to be released before we go on Easter holiday,” a senior member of the Minority side in the National Assembly said on Thursday.

The Standard reached National Treasury Principal Secretary (PS) Dr. Chris Kiptoo for a comment in regard to the delayed legislators’ payment, but our phone calls to him went unanswered.

Recurrent expenditure, which largely includes civil servants’ wages, usually gobbles up a significant amount of the revenue collected by the government monthly.

For instance, the Government of Kenya collected Sh1.83 trillion between July 1, 2022 and February 28, 2023. Out of this, Sh727 billion (40 per cent) was used on recurrent expenditure and Sh694 billion (38 per cent) on public debt.