The Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition is considering challenging the controversial Financial Bill, 2023 in court and through demonstrations as Kenya Kwanza won the vote to adopt changes recommended by the Finance and Planning committee.
The vote was called after the opposition rejected the results of the acclamation vote announced by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula.
Before the vote, Kenya Kwanza legislators had pitched for the Bill, stressing the importance of the government being able to raise revenue to finance its inaugural budget while the Azimio MPs faulted the proposed levies, saying they were punitive.
During the debate, the opposition warned that should Kenya Kwanza pass the Bill in the National Assembly using its numbers, then it should prepare for a battle in court.
Rarieda MP Otiende Amollo while contributing to the debate, termed the Bill as irredeemably bad for the well-being of Kenyans and hence should be rejected or withdrawn for fresh drafting.
“You must listen to us on this and if you use the majority to pass this Bill, there are still the courts, and if you use the courts, there are the people,” Mr Amollo said. He pointed out that it is illegal for the national government to implement the housing project saying it is a county function under Schedule Six of the constitution.
Homa Bay Town MP Peter Kaluma said it’s unconstitutional to tax Kenyans for housing if there are no clearly defined legal ways for the contributors to benefit.
Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi said: “This Bill is going to spark a revolution led by poor hustlers who have had enough of lies and chest-thumping from the government and I want to warn that it will be difficult to stop it.”
“How can we go around the country promising people heaven only to come up with a Bill that is choking them? This is the first time I have seen a leader of a political party threatening MPs that if they don’t vote in a particular way then they will face consequences,” Mr Wandayi said.
Deputy Minority Leader Robert Mbui said MPs have been reduced to puppets controlled from State House to pass the Bill.
However, Kenya Kwanza MPs defended the Bill saying Azimio is playing populist politics without offering alternatives.
Majority whip Silvanus Osoro defended the housing levy saying shelter is an important aspect just like food and clothing.
“I am surprised that we are sitting here only thinking of today. Yes it’s important to have food and clothing but it is also important to have shelter and that’s why we are talking about this housing levy,” said Mr Osoro
Gatanga MP Edward Muriu said the Bill will resolve unemployment and help to build roads.
“How will we do all these without paying taxes?” he asked.
Teso South MP Mary Emase said reducing taxes alone as proposed by Azimio cannot spur economic growth saying there is a need to raise more taxes and reduce borrowing.
After the vote, President William Ruto’s side won with 176 votes in support of the Bill against 81 to see the Bill sail through with amendments. The Bill now proceeds to the Third Reading (committee of the whole House), which is expected to take place on Tuesday next week.
National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u will present the budget speech on Thursday.
Last week, Azimio leader Raila Odinga warned of nationwide mass action should the government force the Bill through the National Assembly
Should Azimio head to court, it will join Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah who is in seeking nullification of 13 provisions of the Bill, terming them unconstitutional.