Azimio la Umoja
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Finance Bill: Why Azimio rejected Ruto’s offer

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Kalonzo Musyoka (center) flanked by other Azimio la Umoja leaders address the media at the SKM Center in Nairobi on June 14, 2024.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu |Nation Media Group

Calls to maintain political pressure and demand for more changes in the punitive Finance Bill, 2024 informed opposition decision to reject the concessions made by the state.

Insiders with Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition confided in the Nation that the dropped proposed punitive taxes by president William Ruto’s government was to calm growing tension in the country but well intended. 

In a meeting that lasted 90 minutes at County Hall on Tuesday evening, Azimio leaders said supporting the Bill based on the changes announced at State House would be falling into President Ruto’s political bait into winning their support in other proposals contained in the Bill, which they still term as offensive.

The Nation has also learnt that the coalition has convened another meeting today (Wednesday) evening to agree on the general amendments to push in the Bill.

National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed confirmed that the members agreed to have another Parliamentary Group meeting evening at the conclusion of the second reading in order to strategize on the amendments to push during committee of the whole House.

“Some members were of the opinion that we should not propose any amendments while others said we should have. So we agreed to meet again and review how the debate has been, then come up with joint amendments to push,” Mr Mohamed told the Nation.

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairperson John Mbadi said the coalition still rejects the Bill in principle as legislation is a process carried out in Parliament and not an event done at State House.

“As we speak, the Bill has only undergone first reading. It is coming for the second and still contains all the offensive clauses. We cannot be party to roadside declarations made at State House,” Mr Mbadi said.

The nominated lawmaker also pointed out that it is not yet a guarantee that the proposed amendments contained in the report of the committee of Finance and National Planning will be carried by the House.

“Until those proposals are adopted by the House, we are still rejecting the Bill, in fact we demand a total withdrawal of the Bill as there are still offensive clauses in it,” Mr Mbadi said.

“President Ruto was just cornered by Kenyans, he is not doing anyone a favor in dropping the offensive clauses. Does he have economic advisors who told him to include the clauses? Are those advisors or saboteurs,” he asked?

In the floor of the House on Wednesday, Seme MP James Nyikal raised procedural issues with how the Bill’s report was tabled, pointing out that State House had already discussed the committee report and even proposed changes which going contrary to house procedure.

“This document went to the President before it came to us, have we once again jumped the gun which someone can use in court to challenge this Bill once it is passed. The procedure should be, the legislative does its work, completes and then takes it to the executive instead of taking it there first,” Dr Nyikal said.

However, speaker Moses Wetang’ula said caucusing for a parliamentary document is allowed pointing out that even the Azimio side had a meeting to discuss the report.

“I have read the report cover to cover and I have not seen any meeting you are referring to. There is nothing wrong in causing it. If you read the report, there is no majority or minority caucusing in it,” Mr Wetang’ula said.

A report of parliament becomes public when tabled in the House, in the case of the Finance and Planning committee report, the chairperson Kuria Kimani made public the report’s details, despite his committee having a bipartisan membership and later tabled the same in the House. 

On Tuesday, President Ruto’s administration had bowed to public pressure and backtracked on some of the punitive taxes and levies that had been proposed in the Bill.

Bread lovers, motor vehicle owners, pensioners, and farmers are among the biggest winners in changes that MPs made to the bill, which, overall, has attracted public outcry and condemnation. 

In changes announced at State House, Nairobi, the National Assembly’s Finance Committee on Tuesday said it had dropped a proposal to charge 16 percent value-added tax on bread.

Also struck out is the proposed value-added tax on transportation of sugar cane, financial services and foreign exchange transactions.

However, speaking after the coalition joint Parliamentary Group (PG)meeting on Tuesday evening, National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi said the Kenya Kwanza administration is playing mind games with Kenyans and that as a coalition they demand total withdrawal of the Bill.

Mr Wandayi said the dropped proposals such as the 2.5 percent motor vehicle tax and the 16 VAT on bread were included in the Bill purposefully to create rage among members of the public.

“The changes to the Bill announced creates a feeling that the government is involved in mind games with the citizens. They create the feeling that some of the proposals now dropped were included in the initial bill just to create outrage and give the administration the opportunity to claim to be listening and caring,” Mr Wandayi said.

The Ugunja lawmaker pointed out that from the onset there was never any justification for proposing to increase tax on bread and tax sugarcane being delivered to factories.

“Motor Vehicle tax was silly and outrageous from the start. The evil mind that conceived it was simply testing the resolve and the emotions of Kenyans. It takes a bad government to govern through mind games and Kenya Kwanza is one such government,” Mr Wandayi said.

“Despite the changes announced today, we as a Coalition, are not convinced that they go deep enough to make the end product be a law that can promote investment and economic growth and contain corruption, especially the budgeted corruption and wasteful spending,” he added.

Among the changes the coalition said it will push include the deletion of the Export Promotion Levy of 10 per cent on clinkers for manufacture of cement which they termed as a tool for stagnation and meant to stifle competition.

After the meeting, the coalition maintained that they still reject the Bill despite the overtures that the President has extended through deletion of a number of offensive clauses and want the bill overhauled.