Tax citizens but cut state wastage too

President Ruto

President William Ruto. If the government tells us the cash cow is dying, then why allow politicians to milk it on its deathbed?

Photo credit: Pool I Nation Media Group

The government has set its sights on taxpayers as it focuses on its tax collection target.

The reluctance by some Kenyans in paying taxes is understandable, although not recommended. It is also understandable that some of the efforts appear politically motivated, such as targeting the opposition in the exercise. 

However, governments cannot function without tax. This is necessary for public services to run optimally and to have a better functioning government. The only snag and frustrating issue for most taxpayers is in how the taxes collected previously have been utilised.

Publicly funded organisations are struggling to run services properly and they would often cite a lack of funds. Although this is mainly true, it most likely is also attributable to corruption. 

Another challenge is the bloated wage bill for the political class, who still demand more. The bicameral parliaments and counties waste more taxpayers’ money than they spend on service delivery. 

The auditor general’s 2022 report noted that “County governments diverted funds meant for service delivery, failed to bank locally collected revenue and made irregular payments to contractors and staff, leading to the loss of billions of taxpayers’ money”. I rest my case. 

If we were to reduce the salaries of politicians alone by 60%, we could recoup enough money to plough back into public service. If key sectors such as education, hospitals, housing and security were well funded and suitable for all classes and creeds, there would be no need for huge salaries for politicians.

There is so much wastage of public funds just to appease an average politician. The Office of the Prime Cabinet Secretary, which is occupied by Musalia Mudavadi, is a case in point. For the life of me, I do not know what value this office adds to the country or what exactly its mandate is. 

We have an elected Deputy President; so what the heck do we need another quasi-DP for? Taxpayers’ money is being used to put up an office to be used as a bank for western Kenya votes for future elections is my only guess. Mr Mudavadi is neither elected nor is his office constitutionally recognised. It should not exist.

When the economy is bad, that is not the time either to spend millions of taxpayers’ shillings on burying a wealthy minister. Public funds should not be used for lavish burials or harambees for celebrities. Public funds should neither be used for unjustifiable MPs’ induction and seminars at resorts. There are conference facilities and government institutions for the purposes. 

At the workplace

The rest of us get inducted at the workplace, at our expense; so should MPs. Their induction at resorts is another stealthy way to abuse public funds. The line between private and public is blurred for many public officeholders. That is why it is easy to decree the use of public resources for private use, contrary to the law.

Corruption also continues to hamper public sector growth. Despite the establishment of many anti-corruption agencies over the years, the country is yet to decisively deal with the vice once and for all. Every election season comes with more promises of dealing with corruption but what politicians do once they come into office is find other ingenious ways to keep the gravy (read: graft) train going.

The County Development Fund (NG-CDF) being fought for by Parliament has been a gravy train for previous MPs. Despite the court declaring it was illegal for the fund to be managed by MPs, they have bullied their way into reinstating it into their offices. They are not crying for CDF to care for the taxpayers but embezzle it like the previous crop of MPs. There are only a few MPs who could honestly say they have used CDF prudently, for development projects.

Kenya’s problem is not tax-related but the wastefulness of public resources. If taxes collected were previously used prudently for the benefit of the taxpayers, I guess Kenyans won’t begrudge paying even more. However, if they see the amount of money wasted through corruption and on unjustified bloated politicians’ expenses, they won’t be inspired to contribute to nation-building. 

Leaders need to show prudence when spending the taxes collected. If we can save the Sh2 billion shillings lost to corruption daily and unjustified billions more that pay politicians, we can afford to keep everyone in the country comfortable. 

Kenya is rich enough to have a welfare scheme for the poorest. The ‘Not leaving anyone Behind’ slogan means nobody lacks funds to live on or access key services. It is the taxpayers to be looked after well as they are the oil that drives the economy. 

Politicians cannot tell everyone else to tighten their belts as the economy bites and then use the little funds left to go to resorts for junkets or raid the coffers to increase their salaries. If the government tells us the cash cow is dying, then why allow politicians to milk it on its deathbed?

Ms Guyo is a legal researcher. [email protected] @kdiguyo


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