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Cofek wants search for KRA chief done afresh

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 9 – A consumer lobby group is calling for the re-advertisement for the position of Commissioner General of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to ensure that the recruitment process is transparent.

Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) Secretary General Stephen Mutoro opined that the search to replace outgoing Commissioner General Michael Waweru has been shrouded in mystery making it necessary to open up the process.

“The board will require to re-advertise the position through a neutral agency – which could be the Public Service Commission – so that we are able to have a better process,” Mutoro argued adding that Waweru’s contract could even be extended by three months to give them time to pick the right candidate.

The KRA board has been spearheading the recruitment drive for the search of a new taxman, who will take over from Waweru who is set for retirement in March this year after nine years at the helm of the revenue collection body.

For the first time, the board advertised the position.

In an advertisement in the local dailies, the board disclosed names of seven people who were short listed from an initial list of 16 candidates that had applied for the job.

The final list of seven, which includes four current KRA employees, was arrived at after another draft was issued by the board, fuelling speculation that there were some underhanded dealings going on.

The four current employees include: Commissioner for Domestic Tax Department-Large Tax Payers Office John Njiraini, Commissioner of Customs Wambui Namu, Commissioner of Support Services Helen Bila and Alice Owuor of the Domestic Tax Department.

It does not help matters that Waweru is quoted as rooting for an ‘insider’ to get the high level job, a statement that Mutoro terms as ‘unfortunate’ and ‘outrageous’.

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In addition, Cofek faults the board over its failure to issue a calendar of events indicating when each of the applicants will appear before the interviewing panel.

“We want these candidates to be vetted by a credible body before they appear before Parliament,” he stressed.

A source at the revenue body says the board has not yet decided when the interviews will be held but was categorical that they would be conducted in closed session.

The source, who did not wish to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media pointed out that the decision to conduct the interviews behind closed doors was due to the fact that KRA is not a constitutional office and as such is not obligated to have such sessions under the glare of the public eye.

Mutoro however dismissed this argument saying that the position is crucial since the successful applicant will be in charge of the taxes that are collected in the country.

“Just because it (KRA) is not a constitutional office it does not make it impermeable because the candidate will still be a public officer,” he argued.

“As far as we are concerned, the constitutional office only applies in the security of tenure for the holder of the office but it has nothing to do with the integrity of the person,” he went on while threatening to seek an interpretation in court if due diligence is not followed.

Such a transparent and impartial process, he argued, would help put in office a person who can inspire more Kenyans to pay taxes, a move that would contribute towards improving their livelihoods.

The new taxman would also be expected to instill public confidence in the institution that has largely been seen to be protecting rich people who evade taxes.

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“We need public confidence that KRA is a nonpartisan institution. People do not pay taxes because they want to comply but (they do it) for fear of reprisals. So we need a leader who will inspire patriotism among Kenyans,” the Secretary General added.

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