Tax dilemma for Ruto in Mt Kenya as MPs dither on push for support

President William Ruto (centre) during the Kenya Kwanza Parliamentary Group Meeting at State House, Nairobi. [PCS] [PCS]

The silence of Mt Kenya region government allied MPs against the Finance Bill has revived the memories of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report where pro-government leaders silently opposed the bill

It is the moment of Winston Churchill’s statement that history repeats itself first as a tragedy and second as a farce where those who accused the pro-Uhuru Kenyatta-led administration of failing to listen to the wishes and aspirations of the people. 

By that time, those in the Tanga Tanga wing that supported William Ruto, the Deputy President coined a narrative of listening to the ground so as to support Ruto, who had been demonized by government luminaries as corrupt and unfit to lead. 

The Tanga Tanga faction came into being in 2018 in the controversial Finance Bill when they opposed the increment of the fuel levy and the debt ceiling accusing the government of failing to consider those at the bottom of the pyramid ‘hustlers’.

When the BBI culminated into a constitutional bill it generated criticism and it took Muranga Senator Irungu Kangata, now governor, the Senate Chief Whip to write the famous candid letter to the President terming the BBI unpopular in Mt Kenya region. 

Fast forward, the proposed house levy, VAT on fuel and the introduction of the turnover tax to small businesses have been described as punitive to the hustlers, the legislators in the region have avoided the topic at their grassroots political meetings for fear of clashing with their supporters. 

An MP who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of antagonising party bosses told The Standard that he will not be drumming up for the bill because it is against the premise of what the Hustler government rode to power but he fears opposing the bill for fear of clashing with the President. 

“During the parliamentary group meeting at State House, the President himself disclosed how he personally called Mathira MP on the phone asking why he was opposed to the bill, most of us do not want to be at loggerheads with him but we wish it just does not pass at the Assembly,” the MP said in a phone. 

However, just like the Kangata moment of truth, Githunguri MP Gathoni Muchomba has decided to be the face of opposition against the bill but unlike Kangata who wrote an open letter to the President, Wamuchomba says she will use every available opportunity to speak to the power ‘since if I face them one on one, they will term me as a rebel.’

After, the Mathira legislator received a call from the Head of State over his public stand against the bill he has since gone mute, making Wamuchomba the only government-allied MP to publicly oppose the bill. 

“The bill is punitive and oppressive to the same hustler who gave us the mandate of representing him in government. it must be reviewed so that leaders’ views are incorporated in the bill, our people are already hungry and we can’t tax them more,” an MP said. 

Githunguri MP Gathoni Muchomba. [David Njaaga, Standard]

According to the legislator, the turnover tax that seeks to tax small businesses, the advanced tax which taxes the importation of vehicles, and the housing levy had been rejected by the courts and it was only fair for the government to remove them from the bill. 

“We are not in the era where the government word was final, in this century we need consultations and not chest-thumping,” she said. 

Wamuchomba said it was ridiculous for the government to give fertilizer subsidies and then propose an increment of taxes on agricultural inputs saying the move will affect farmers and raise the cost of living. 

“The government should have an approach to empower the basic producer in this case a farmer, by establishing a contingency fund to buy the agricultural products from farmers and establish food reserve so that farmers will not depend on subsidy from the government and assurance of enough food in case of drought,” she said. 

Gatanga MP Edward Muriu agreed that the majority of MPs are not drumming up support for the bill to the electorate because they do not understand it.

He admitted that there was a trust deficit from Kenyans against the Kenya Kwanza government hence, the opposition to the bill due to ‘the history of corruption in the past government.’

 “The public had hoped that once the Kenya Kwanza administration assume office, taxes will be reduced which is not happening, what they (Kenyans) don’t understand is that we found empty coffers and we need to address the economic situation first,” he said. 

The UDA Secretary to legal affairs gave it to the Opposition saying they have succeeded in demonising the bill to an extent that Kenya Kwanza allied leaders fear clashing with their supporters. 

“The government must move with speed and restore the lost trust of the public so that they get assurance that money collected will be put to good use. It must deal with the corrupt people in government,” the MP said. 

He added that other than the few issues in the bill, most of the proposals were good for the country urging his counterparts to understand the bill and contextualise it before opposing it. 

On his part Mukurweini MP John Kaguchia said after the State House PG meeting, the bill was explained to the leaders and all declared to have understood and supported the bill.

“I don’t understand why Wa Muchomba has decided to go that route but we have in the past suspected that she could be working for somebody to advance his agenda of undermining the government,” the MP said. 

In her response, Wamuchomba said the contentious issues remained unresolved vowing to soldier on without fear or prejudice despite being labeled a rebel. 

“They sent emissaries to silence me when I raised the issue of one man one vote one shilling and started accusing me of being used but I won’t remain silent in the quest to advocate for the rights of our people,” she said 

She also said she was aware of plans of being summoned over her stand and also being removed from parliamentary committees.