It's war at KRA as sleuths snoop for graft deals

Some of the Kenya Revenue Authority staff arrested over tax evasion are arraigned at Milimani Law Courts on May 15, 2019. Junior staff say the campaign is biased. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Suspending the system weeks before the expiry of online filing of annual returns is set to leave thousands of taxpayers on the receiving end of the ongoing graft purge at the agency that has seen over 70 staff arrested.
  • The Flying Squad has been picking one officer after the other in the last two weeks to question them on the tampering with the iTax system.

Kenyans are set to be the biggest casualties of the sabotage and graft at the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) after the taxman quietly suspended four critical functions of its tax system due to ‘incidence of system abuse’, even as a fight between staff and management escalated.

In an internal memo to staff, the KRA management says it has temporarily suspended iTax functions, among them tax compliance certificate approvals, tax returns amendments, amendment of assessments and ledger amendments including capture of waiver penalties and interests.

The iTax is a Web-based system developed to simplify revenue collection and reduce human interference in tax collection.

It allows taxpayers to simply update their tax registration details, file tax returns, register all tax payments and make status enquiries with real-time monitoring of their accounts.

TAX COLLECTION

Suspending the system weeks before the expiry of online filing of annual returns is set to leave thousands of taxpayers on the receiving end of the ongoing graft purge at the agency that has seen over 70 staff arrested.

Detectives continue to lurk in the shadows at the revenue authority, snooping for more evidence to nail more staff involved in fraudulent activities.

The system suspension is also likely to jeopardise tax collections coming so close to the end of the financial year where KRA is expected to collect Sh500 billion in under two months.

“There’s a team working on a resolution of the issues identified. In the meantime, kindly be patient as we are putting in place a workaround to contain the situation,” said the memo, signed by Ms Elizabeth Meyo, the KRA Commissioner for Domestic Taxes.

The Flying Squad has been picking one officer after the other in the last two weeks to question them on the tampering with the system.

The Nation has also learnt that investigations are narrowing down to two commissioners. “They want two super users of the tax system, who have access to everything in the tax system,” a source who understands the ongoing at the agency said.

GO-SLOW

In a move to crack a go-slow by some staff in key tax departments at the agency that has threatened tax collections, the agency now wants all managers to report on a daily basis the performance of all the staff below them.

Insiders say a number of staff just sit at their desks but do no work. “As you are aware, there were allegations of KRA staff being on a go-slow in some operational areas, which was said to have led to declined service delivery, especially on cargo clearance at the Port of Mombasa and ICD Embakasi,” Mr Ezekiel Saina, the acting Commissioner General wrote to managers.

“This is a very serious situation and must be monitored very closely and prompt decisive action taken. In this regard, besides the efforts you are making to dispel any anxiety among staff and to ensure normal operations, it is important to also prepare daily performance reports/data in comparison to previous periods for purposes of monitoring performance trends as well as to inform appropriate decision making,” Mr Saina added.

BIASED

Staff have written a protest memo to the agency’s board chairman accusing the top management of shielding “fat cats” involved in various tax scandals and sacrificing junior tax officers.

The KRA has gone a step further and ordered its managers to analyse staff attendance data for the past eight months.

“The analysed information should indicate dates when an employee was absent and the reason for example leave, sick off among others. Please ensure the report is submitted to the office of the undersigned by close of business Friday, May 24, 2019 without fail,” read another memo from the Human Resources department at the agency.

In their protest letter, addressed to the board chairman Francis Muthaura, staff say they feel that there are targeted attacks on low cadre staff and yet there are glaring integrity issues right at the heart of management and helm of the authority.

“Intimidation of staff is rife, and we cannot speak out in peace because we are reminded at every turn that our activities and communication are being closely monitored,” the protest letter adds.

SPYING

Sections of staff say the authority is now intercepting their communication. “The authority has been flooded with intelligence operatives, ostensibly to spy on us so that we uphold integrity. Currently, the Intelligence and Strategic Operations department hires more police/security trained officers than technical officers,” the protest reads in part.

To explain the go-slow, staff say they are not properly resourced to perform their duties.

"In many stations, staff have to contribute to buy basic amenities like printing paper and even printers. A good number of staff members have to use their personal laptops to perform their duties as the authority does not provide sufficient computers,” the memo reads in part.

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