Opposition mulls options on Finance Bill 

Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo protests outside Parliament Buildings Nairobi after the Finance Bill, 2024 sailed through the Second Reading last Thursday. FILE
Photo credit: File| Nation

The National Assembly will on Tuesday, June 25, consider and take a vote on various amendments to the controversial Finance Bill, 2024 which has sparked protests. 

Demonstrators, mainly young people, poured onto the streets as they called for the total rejection of the Finance Bill.

All eyes will be on Members of Parliament as Kenyans wait to see if they will adopt proposals put forward; recommend more amendments or stick to those endorsed by the ruling Kenya Kwanza Alliance during a Parliamentary Group meeting at State House.

During the meeting chaired by President William Ruto, the leaders walked back on some of the most controversial taxes, but retained some which don’t sit well with Kenyans who are already overburdened with taxes.

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

In changes announced at State House, the National Assembly’s Finance Committee on Tuesday said it had dropped a proposal to charge 16 percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on bread.

Also struck out is the proposed VAT on transportation of sugarcane, financial services and foreign exchange transactions.

However, the proposals will have to be adopted by the House, and the original Bill amended to reflect the changes.

The opposition has not yet made a decision on whether it will push for amendments or not.

National Assembly Leader of Minority Opiyo Wandayi said they will the opposition’s position known before Tuesday.

“Our position to reject the Bill still stands. On whether we will push for amendments, we are still consulting and will give a way forward before Tuesday,” Mr Wandayi said.

Nominated MP John Mbadi said although some members had already filed amendments since no direction had been given, they are still rejecting the Bill.

“Although there are individual amendments, the mood in the country is that we reject the Bill in total and start afresh,” Mr Mbadi said.

According to the Standing Orders, a member moving an amendment or a further amendment to any part of the Bill shall explain the meaning, purpose and effect of the proposed amendment or further amendment.

However, according to Standing Order 133 (5), an amendment to a Bill may be declined if it is deemed to be unreasonable.

On Wednesday, National Assembly Minority Whip Junet Mohammed said the opposition would meet at the end of the Second Reading in order to strategise on the amendments to push during the 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.

Some MPs within the coalition argued during the Azimio Parliamentary Group meeting on Tuesday that sponsoring amendments to the Bill will be endorsing it as they will be defeated on the floor of the House.

“It would just be good if we left the government with their skunk in the form of a Finance Bill,” said an opposition MP.

Azimio has accused Kenya Kwanza administration of playing mind games with Kenyans.