NAIROBI, November 19 – Visiting British MP David Blunkett has urged Kenyan parliamentarians to pay taxes terming it ‘a moral responsibility.’,
The MP from Sheffield told reporters in Nairobi on Wednesday that it was unfair for local MPs to refuse to pay taxes, yet their constituents look up to them for leadership.
“I have to experience the pain, the difficulties, challenges and joys of my own constituents in one of Britain’s most deprived communities and all I can say is that they would be very unforgiving in the next general election if they found out that I wasn’t paying the taxes they are paying,” he said.
He was quick to point out that everyone would be pleased not to pay taxes if their MPs did not.
“If you said to people in Britain, would you like to have all facilities around you; health, investment in education, transport and infrastructure and you don’t have to pay taxes, they would say that’s absolutely wonderful,” observed Mr Blunkett.
His comments came against the background of piling pressure on Kenyan MPs to pay taxes like all other employed Kenyans but the lawmakers remain adamant.
On Tuesday, two African parliamentarians also advised their Kenyan counterparts against shying away from paying taxes.
Ghanaian Minister for Parliamentary Business, Abraham Aidoo and a colleague from Rwanda’s Chamber of Deputies both said their salaries and allowances were taxed and they had no problem with the arrangement.
“I cannot imagine Ghanaian MPs wanting to amend the law to suit them. That would be discriminatory and they would not dare lest they face a national rebellion,” Mr Aidoo told Capital News in an interview in Nairobi.
A week ago Kenya’s lawmakers who are among the highest paid in the world, coerced Acting Finance Minister John Michuki into dropping a proposal to tax their allowances.
The tax proposal was introduced by former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya in this year’s budget and attracted strong views from the MPs and members of the public.
The 222 MPs each earn over Sh800,000 per month. Out of this Sh200,000 is their basic salary which attracts minimal tax. The rest of the money is tax free.
The MPs have attempted to justify the latest move to avoid taxes saying their constituents expect them to personally address most of their problems.
Mr Michuki had told Parliament that the Treasury would get an additional Sh600 million for government expenditure from the legislators’ taxes.
Mr Kimunya had also suggested that constitutional office holders, including the Attorney General, Public Service Commissioners, Electoral Commissioners, the Controller and Auditor General and judges be compelled to pay taxes on their allowances.
On Tuesday foreign lawmakers attending a conference on reconciliation at the Safari Park hotel wondered why other citizens should pay taxes when their top leaders were exempt from such obligations.
“In Rwanda we lead by example. Otherwise our business leaders would also look for ways not to pay taxes and this would impact negatively on our growing economy,” said an MP who didn’t want to be named.
MDGs and disability
Meanwhile, Mr Blunkett who was born blind, urged for development of technologies that would accommodate persons with disabilities at work places so as to ensure harmonious coexistence.
He expressed disappointment that the Millennium Development Goals did not put into consideration people with disabilities.
“We need to integrate programs that suit those who are disabled because they are likely to be more disadvantaged,” the UK legislator said.
The MP was speaking during a courtesy call on Safaricom Foundation Chairman Les Baillie.