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MPs defend tax evasion

NAIROBI, November 12 – Members of Parliament (MP) have justified their decision to coerce Acting Finance Minister John Michuki into dropping a proposal to tax their allowances.

Debating the Finance Bill during Wednesday’s Parliamentary session Legislators objected to media and public criticism of their action saying they don’t deserve to be taxed.

Gwasi MP John Mbadi told the House that Kenyan MPs were not the highest paid in the world as had been alleged and gave the example of Germany where he said legislators earn more than double of what Kenyan MPs get.

Mr Mbadi said: “If a poll were carried out in my constituency I’m sure 70 percent would say my salary be increased because of the numerous things I have to do for them.”

Maragua MP Elias Mbau was first to raise the issue in the House saying not all the legislators supported the tax waiver. He however refused to take up an opportunity given to him by Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim to contribute to the debate and raise his objections.

Also raising his objection to the criticism Mr Michuki accused a section of the media of misleading the public on the issue. He said the clause of not taxing MPs and constitutional office holders was created before independence.

“We were only to get Sh600 million (proceeds from the tax) and not Sh2 billion as has been reported. As a ministry we shall continue examining other ways of bringing fairness in the taxation system,” he said.

The proposal to tax the law makers, judges and other constitutional office holders was proposed by the Former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya during this year’s budget. It had attracted strong views from the MPs and members of the public.

The legislators had threatened to shoot down the Finance Bill had Mr Michuki not dropped the proposal during a Kamukunji’ (informal meeting) he held on Tuesday to appeal to MPs to pass the Bill.

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The MPs eventually passed the Bill during Wednesday’s afternoon session.

The bid to have MPs taxed may however come before Parliament should Kangundo MP Johnston Muthama  move a Motion to introduce a Bill that will see the current hefty salaries and allowances paid to legislators significantly reduced.

Mr Muthama who had planned to introduce the Bill in March said in the unlikely event it is passed it would be a welcome break from past parliaments whose first duty has always been to increase their package.

Mr Muthama, who is a billionaire gemstone dealer, said he was motivated to sponsor the Motion after: “Reviewing the amount of money paid to legislators compared to the meager earnings their constituents were taking home.”

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