MPs force Hinga to leave meeting after tough questions on housing

Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga

Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Housing Principal Secretary Charles Hinga was forced to abandon a presentation on the proposed 3 percent housing levy following tough questioning from MPs.

Mr Hinga walked out in a huff after members of the National Assembly’s Finance and National Planning Committee poked holes into President William Ruto’s ambitious plan to build 250,000 affordable housing units through worker and employer contributions.

The MPs wanted to know about the infrastructure in place to handle the billions of shillings that will be generated by the mandatory deductions, the rules for managing the funds and where the housing levy will be deposited. They also wanted to know if contributors will be paid interest on their deposits and what criteria will be used to allocate the houses.

Mr Hinga had appeared unannounced before the committee chaired by Molo MP Kuria Kimani to present the Lands, Public Works, Housing and Urban Development MInistry’s views on the Finance Bill 2023. He ended up leaving without providing answers to the numerous questions raised by MPs.

“I will allow you another time to appear and answer these questions. I know you are very much needed elsewhere,” Mr Kimani said before abruptly ending the meeting. The committee is holding public hearings on the proposals contained in the Finance Bill at the Hilton Gardens Inn Hotel along Mombasa Road.

Mr Hinga began by making a PowerPoint presentation on the benefits that will accrue from the affordable housing projects. When the floor was opened for questions, Baringo North MP Joseph Makilap tore into the presentation, accusing the ministry of failing to read the dire economic situation of the majority of workers.

“I would like to remind the PS that you made an emotional presentation. You indicated that you have been doing this project for about five years. Where did you get the money to do this without taxing Kenyans? Why don’t you continue to do it without taxing Kenyans through a compulsory housing fund?” Mr Makilap asked.

MPs Makilap, Adipo Okoume (Karachuonyo), John Ariko (Turkana South) and David Mboni (Kitui Rural) also told Mr Hinga that the housing scheme goes against the culture of most communities.

“Making this housing levy compulsory makes it a tax. Anything that is not compulsory is a tax,” said Dr Ariko.

Mr Hinga had earlier told the MPs that the ministry was evaluating bids for contractors to be engaged to undertake projects in all the 290 constituencies.