Parliament on Thursday endorsed the Presidential reservations on the Finance Bill, 2018, in a chaotic sitting, at the end of which the House was sharply divided on the manner in which a tax on fuel was adopted.
With the victory, the Executive has the power to raise up to Sh130 billion through the eight percent levy on fuel products that will see about Sh17.5 billion realised from sugar confectioneries (Sh475 million), money transfers (Sh11.4 billion), betting companies and winners (Sh30 billion), housing fund (10 billion) and kerosene (Sh9.8 billion).
The memorandum proposed a deletion of 0.05 percent “Robin Hood” tax regime, which had been proposed on the money transfers of at least Sh500,000.
The government plans to recoup the lost revenue through the 20 percent imposed on the charges banks levy on customers in money transfers, meaning that the transfer charges could still go up.
There is also a new proposal to increase the price of kerosene by Sh18 a litre to check against adulteration, as well as split the current 35 percent tax on betting companies to include the winners.
This targets to raise Sh9.8 billion. Betting companies will be charged 15 percent on top of the 30 percent they pay on corporate income, while the winners will have to surrender 20 percent of their winnings to the State.
But it was not easy sailing for the executive as MPs accused the Speaker of having rigged the poll, arguing that it was clear those opposed to the memo had won.
MPs Tom Kajwang’, Vincent Tuwei, Mohammed Ali, Makali Mulu and Millie Odhiambo objected to the decision by Ms Soipan Tuya to give victory to the ayes; and through chants and boos forced the Speaker back to the floor.
The moment it was clear that pro-Kenyatta side was in danger of losing, Majority Leader Aden Duale was captured whipping members out of the House, presumably to deny it the requisite two-thirds majority that would have seen the memo thrown out.
Later, Mr Duale confirmed having forced some MPs from the chambers, arguing that as the majority leader, his plan was to deny those opposing the numbers and ensure that the government agenda was achieved.
After the House adjourned, MPs opposed to the memo cried foul, arguing that that the Executive had rigged the vote in collusion with the House leadership.
Speaking to journalists after the adjournment, Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru expressed anger at what she described as dictatorship displayed in the House.
“Mr President, stamp your authority and don’t be swayed by cheap politics around Parliament,” she protested even as MPs vowed to fight on.
Boos, jeers and singing of “Bado mapambano” (the struggle continues) rent the air as many MPs appeared to have found an issue around which they could unite, with some chanting “zero!” in reference to their push to have tax on fuel removed, arguing that its introduction would make life difficult for the ordinary person.
On the right of the Speaker, a section of Jubilee MPs were equally unhappy with the President’s recommendations but chose a different way of expressing their misgivings, maybe for fear of victimisation.
Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju arrived in Parliament early in the day just to ensure that the President had his way.
He was joined by party Vice-Chairman David Murathe in the afternoon after it became clear that things were not going well. The endless jeers prompted the speaker to come back to the house.
After listening to five members from both the majority and the minority, the Speaker ruled that a second round of voting would take place as there was a dispute over the numbers of the members present in the House when the question was put.
He then called for a 15-minute break but when the House resumed, the Speaker had changed mind.
Most of MPs found themselves having to choose between what they thought were the interests of their electorate and the instructions of their party leaders: A majority chose to simply take instructions.
Minority Leader John Mbadi – while supporting the memorandum – said in the Finance Bill taken to the President for assent, there was no proposal for zero rating of VAT on petroleum products.
Mr Mbadi was, however, booed by his colleagues who shouted “zero…zero…zero” and was forced to cut short his remarks.
— Real Mukami Wa Embu ?? (@MukamiWaEmbu) September 20, 2018