Rid KRA of graft and enhance tax compliance

President William Ruto’s decision to personally go to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to file his tax returns says a lot about the premium he attaches to paying tax. He has, in the eight months he has been in power, stressed the need for all eligible Kenyans to pay their taxes to enable the government to provide essential public services.

Tax collection is the key mandate of the KRA, but the President is concerned that not all the revenue due is being brought in and that partly to blame are some crooked staff at the agency. According to him, corruption is undermining revenue collection efforts. Putting the KRA on notice, he says the whole country is aware of what is going on.

He is, of course, quite right that “a culture of corruption, collusion, inefficiency and unprofessionalism” is costly to the country. If it will take technology to stamp out the scourge, so be it, however costly it may initially be, as the gains will eventually outweigh the high cost. The officials concerned must eliminate that resistance. All must not just be compliant, but should also remit the due taxes in full and on time.

The KRA must enhance customer service to facilitate taxpayers, enhance dispute resolution and deploy efficient technology to improve collection. It must shun intimidation and coercion and encourage taxpayers to come forward with a smile as they answer any queries and pay taxes.

The public admission by the President about the rot at the KRA calls for action to streamline and boost tax collection. The revenue administration agency must be professional, efficient, fair, transparent and accountable, but the government must also be an honest and vigilant steward of public resources.

As the country grapples with its huge financial crisis, with the people being burdened by heavy taxes, graft should not be tolerated. During a past crackdown, dozens of top officials were suspended and some subjected to lie detector and lifestyle audits. However, the findings have never been made public. All those found culpable must be made to pay for their crimes.