TSC continues housing levy deduction despite court order

More than 364,000 teachers across the country are the first casualties of government defiance after they were slapped with housing levy deductions on their salaries.

Scrutiny of shared payslips shows that teachers under the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) payroll were deducted 1.5 per cent in their January pay.

A pay slip received by a teacher on January 24 shows that the commission had deducted Sh1,125 for the contentious housing levy.

This came against the backdrop of a legal battle over the legitimacy of the housing levy, introduced by the Finance Act 2023.

In November, the High Court declared the housing levy unconstitutional due to inadequate public participation in its conception and suspended its implementation.

The Attorney General and the National Treasury appealed the decision, arguing that halting the
levy would cause budgetary chaos.

While the Court of Appeal declined to grant a stay of execution on the suspension order on January 26, the teachers' employer proceeded with deductions, sparking outrage among public workers.

Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary general Akello Misori yesterday
confirmed the deductions following scrutiny of payslips forwarded to the union's leadership.

"Kuppet demands the immediate release of the illegally deducted taxes to teachers. We have also
sought an assurance from the Commission that it will obey court orders going forward, including
specifically the orders on the housing tax,” Misori said.

He said the union intends to institute contempt proceedings against TSC officials if the deducted
amounts are not refunded and further deductions cease.

“Such action fits in a disturbing pattern where public authorities obey court orders at their own
convenience,” Misori said at the union headquarters in Nairobi.

The University and Academic Staff Union (Uasu) has written to Vice Chancellors and principals, demanding immediate halting of housing levy deductions from salaries.

Uasu secretary general, Constantine Wasonga in a letter cited the Court of Appeal decision and the Federation of Kenya Employers (FKE) advisory to its members to respect the court order.

"We advise that you stop the deductions of the housing levy and refund our members the sums
deducted illegally forthwith," read the Uasu letter, dated January 29.

The Standard was yet to establish if any public university had indeed deducted housing levy from workers salaries by close of business on Wednesday.

Employers in the private sector had on January 26 issued an advisory, asking its members to respect the court ruling by stopping any further deductions on the housing levy.

FKE Executive Director Jacqueline Mugo asked members to stop further housing levy deductions until the determination of the appeal, or until the orders are varied.

“In light of the court order, we advise our members, not to deduct the levy unless the Court of Appeal rules otherwise after the hearing of the substantive appeal or in the alternative, should the government challenge the said ruling in the Supreme Court, the said Court reverses the ruling delivered today,” Mugo said.

Whether the deductions happened before the ruling or was deliberate decision reached after the court pronouncement remains unknown but the union is convinced that the TSC could have recalled the payslips to ensure compliance.

Efforts to reach the commission regarding the decision to institute deductions despite the court order were futile as there was no response to texts, and neither calls were picked.

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