MPs want court to throw out Omatatah's Finance Bill petition

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

Members of the National Assembly have urged the High Court to dismiss the suit filed by Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah challenging the proposed Finance Bill 2024 terming it incompetent and premature.

The legislators, in response to a case filed by Omtatah and activist Eliud Matindi, have asked the Constitutional and Human Rights Court to throw out the petition, arguing that it is an abuse of the court process.

"The petition and the notice of motion is frivolous, incompetent, vexatious, misconceived and an outright abuse of the court process to the extent that petitioners are challenging a Bill which has not yet been enacted," they said.

The MPs argued that the case is premature since the petitioners have failed to exhaust all avenues available to them under the Constitution and the standing orders of the House.

Through lawyer Sandra Nganyi the lawmakers said the current case by Omtatah and Matindi has been heard and determined by the High Court before.

"The petition is also subjudice as the issues raised herein are subject of an appeal case pending determination by the Court of Appeal," lawyer Nganyi said.
Senator Omtatah seeks to stop MPs from deliberating the Finance Bill 2024 which proposes new taxes.

"We seek the court to issue conservatory orders suspending the consideration by the National Assembly, in any form whatsoever of the Finance Bill 2024, which was published in Nairobi on May 9, 2024, in the Kenya Gazette No. 102 of 2024," Omtatah and Matindi state in their court papers.

The duo want the court to issue orders suspending the Finance Bill 2024 on grounds that it violates sections of the Constitution and should be declared illegal and null.

The two petitioners also want the court to suspend the ongoing public participation on the Bill.

Omtatah moved to court after the chairperson of Finance and National Planning Committee of the National Assembly tabled the Finance Bill 2024 (the Bill) on May 13, 2024.

The Bill proposes various changes to the Income Tax Act (ITA), the VAT Act, 2013 (VAT Act), Excise Duty Act, Tax Procedures Act, 2015 (TPA), and the Miscellaneous Fees and Levies Act among other non-tax statutes.

Omtatah and Matindi argued that the Finance Bill, 2024, has been tabled prematurely because there is no approved fiscal framework for the Financial Year 2024-2025, which it is supposed to implement.

"The approved fiscal framework will only come to life with the enactment, with public participation, of the Appropriation Act, 2024," they state in their court papers.

The duo contend that if the court does not intervene in real time to suspend the process, their application and the petition will be lost because the Finance Bill, 2024, will be approved by Parliament and signed into law by the President.

Omtatah argued that it is only after Parliament has procedurally enacted the Appropriation Act, 2024, that the Finance Bill, 2024, can lawfully and constitutionally be introduced in the National Assembly and, with public participation, be considered and approved by Parliament, and signed into law by the President as the Finance Act, 2024.

"So, in essence, there is no Finance Bill, 2024, without the fiscal framework contained in the Appropriations Act, 2024," he said.
When parties appeared before Justice Lawrence Mugambi for directions Tuesday, he ordered the National Assembly, Senate, Treasury Cabinet Secretary

Njuguna Ndung'u, Attorney General Justin Muturi, Omtatah and Matindi to file written submissions on the case within three days.

The Judge fixed June 19, 2024, for ruling on the matter.