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Selfish MPs remain under fire

NAIROBI November 27- Members of Parliament remained under fire ‘for the selfish act’ of deleting a clause in the Finance Bill that would have legalised taxation of their hefty allowances.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has asked Kenyans to pile unrelenting pressure on Parliament to amend the Constitutional Office Holders Remuneration Act to allow taxation of the allowances of lawmakers and other constitutional office holders.

LSK chairman Okong’o Omogeni told Capital News on Thursday that there should be no other recourse but to start an early campaign on the issue.

“We want to know the specific MPs who are opposed to the taxation so that we alert their constituents. We will tell them that these people are not willing to assist the country in development and come 2012, they should be voted out,” Mr Omogeni said in an interview.

He said that a legal vacuum had been created as a result of the removal of clauses 38 and 43 from the Finance Bill.

“We must continue to remind the MPs what they are doing is immoral. There are many Kenyans earning as little as Sh15,000 and they are proudly paying taxes,” he said.

Parliament on Tuesday defied the public and rejected a proposal to have their allowances taxed by deleting the clauses in the Finance Bill that had proposed taxation on their six-figure perks and approved the rest of the budget document.
The amendment was moved by Nambale MP Chris Okemo after acting Finance Minister John Michuki who declined to move it as went against his conscience.

The Catholic Church has also joined in the condemnation of the legislators for their action and called upon them to show responsible leadership.  The Catholic Church Peace and Justice Commission Chairman Archbishop Peter Kairo accused the lawmakers of only enacting laws that favoured them at the expense of other Kenyans.

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Rev Kairo reminded the MPs: “Tax is a peculiar burden laid upon individuals and property to support the government. It is not a voluntary payment or donation but an enforced contribution exacted pursuant to legislative authority. We need leaders who will protect the weak, poor and marginalised in the society.”

Only four out of the 222 MPs have volunteered to have taxes deducted from their allowances, a move that National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende dismissed as unworkable.

“Parliament taxes in accordance with the law so if a member writes to the Clerk of the National Assembly and says he wants to be taxed that may not be affected because it would be against the law,” Mr Marende said.

Rev Kairo commended the four and said: “We pray that they will continue to be an example to the rest of our brothers and sisters and that other MPs will emulate their example.”

Kangundo MP Johnstone Muthama, who was the first lawmaker to express interest in paying tax has already sent a cheque to the Kenya Revenue Authority for taxes he wishes to pay this month.

Other MPs who have accepted to pay taxes include Ndaragua legislator Jeremiah Kioni, Lugari’s Cyrus Jirongo and their Tetu counterpart Francis Nyammo.

Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, who is also the Leader of Government business, had indicated on Tuesday that MPs would be persuaded to change their stand on the matter during Tuesday’s Kamukunji (informal meeting).  Mr Kalonzo however failed to attend the meeting but later said he would push for consensus on the matter.
The proposal to tax the legislators was introduced by former Finance Minister Amos Kimunya during the reading of the 2008/2009 fiscal year budget in June.

The 222 MPs each earn over Sh800,000 per month, out of which Sh200,000 is their basic salary for which they pay taxes. The rest of the money is tax free.

A section of the MPs have in the past justified the tax exemption, saying their constituents expect them to address most of their financial needs.

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