Tough times ahead for property owners in Siaya as county proposes tax hikes

Siaya Governor James Orengo when he appeared before the committee on County Public Investments and Special Funds at the VIP Lounge at KICC in Nairobi on July 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Property owners in Siaya will start paying more in land rates if a bill seeking fresh valuations is endorsed by the county assembly.

The Siaya County Valuation and Rating Bill, 2023 proposes that moving forward, the rates be based on new valuations. The proponents of the Bill believe property rates should be reviewed upwards.

The Department of Lands and Physical Planning said the Bill, which is subject to public participation, is crucial to the growth of the county’s Own Source Revenue (OSR).

County governments are seeking to increase their OSR to supplement what they get from the central government. This will also help cushion the counties from delays by the National Treasury in releasing the devolved units' share of the national cake.

County Executive for Lands Maurice McOrege said the Bill will spur economic development in all the major municipalities and towns in the devolved unit.

"The Bill also provides a legal framework for valuing and rating land with the aim of ensuring efficiency, accountability and transparency in the administration of valued land for rating," McOrege said.

In addition, the Bill provides for the valuation of property rates and the imposition, payment and collection of the same in the county.

The current rates, which stand at ten per cent of the value of the unimproved site, are based on the valuations of 2012.

If the bill is passed, Governor James Orengo’s administration will set the rates in the Annual County Finance Act, with a general valuation of land to be done every ten years. Supplementary valuations will be done every year.

A recent report by a task force that was led by the former Auditor General Edward Ouko said the county has not developed legislation on property transfer.

The report, which identified property taxes as one of the most important revenue streams for the county, cited the lack of a valuation roll and county legislation to govern the process of transfer of property within the boundaries of urban areas in Siaya as the major contributing factor.

“In the absence of this legislation, the county government is reluctant to pursue enforcement of payments of rates and other fees through litigation,” read Ouko's report.

According to the Bill, the County Executive Committee Member may, in writing, extend the application of a valuation roll for an additional three years if satisfied that exceptional circumstances exist so as to justify the extension.

"A person who willfully hinders or obstructs a county valuer in the exercise of the powers conferred on him under this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding Sh50,000," according to the Bill.