NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 18 – The National Assembly Finance Committee and that on Budget and Appropriations will on Wednesday hold separate public hearings as MPs embark on their bid to look at how to raise funds from various government agencies.
This is after MPs from both sides of the political divide opposed a move by the National Treasury to cut their funding allocated to the Parliamentary Service Commission, National Government Constituency Development Fund and the National Affirmative Action for Women Fund.
President Uhuru Kenyatta has proposed to chop Sh7 billion from the National Assembly, Sh2 billion from the Senate, Sh6 billion from CDF and Sh8.7 from the roads emergency fund to plug a Sh500 billion budget deficit.
Budget and Appropriations Committee Chairman Kimani Ichung’wah (Kikuyu) said they will be meeting the Judicial Service Commission as well as the Parliamentary Service Commission to receive their views on proposed cuts as contained in the Supplementary Budget Appropriations Bill tabled in the House.
“The Budget Committee will meet tomorrow and we ask all chairs of committees to join so we can deliberate on the estimates and have a report by Thursday. Chairs of the PSC and JSC will also be invited,” he said.
Eldas MP Adan Keynan who also chairs the Finance Committee of the Parliamentary Service Commission told MPs that money allocated to finance Parliament’s operations will not be cut.
“Our position is already known, nothing will be touched in the PSC proposals,” Keynan affirmed amid cheers from his colleagues.
Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) said the Ichung’wah-led Committee has been tasked with looking at where to cut funding in the Executive, counties and Parliament.
“These watchdogs committee are doing very good work, but interrogating people in the committee rooms is not the end of the business. What is the end of the business is when a report is tabled in this house and approved and then other agencies can use them to bring those people to book,” he said of PAC, PIC and the Special Funds Accounts Committee which are yet to table reports that can be used by the House to make decisions.
He added; “That will not help the people of Kenya alone but also the President in making sure certain people are relieved of their duties.”
Special Funds Accounts Committee Chairman Kathuri Murungi and Public Investments Committee (PIC) chair Abdulswamad Nassir said they will use the moment to expose areas of wastage in various agencies of government.
“The PAC, PIC and SFAC we are the watchdogs, I know who the thieves are in this country. Because we know where resources are wasted… where resources are plundered. Like now if you tell me where to cut in order to fill the budget I can at 1am even when I am asleep, Mr Speaker. Because at the Special Funds, we have realised that all this funds we give to ministries and parastatals go to waste,” Murungi said.
President Kenyatta’s reservations referred to clauses on winnings of betting, the commencement date of VAT, tax on confectionary, mobile money fees, the National Housing Fund, levy on kerosene.
Betting firms are set to enjoy a reprieve on taxation if the National Assembly approves President Kenyatta’s proposal to cut tax on gaming from 35 per cent to 15 per cent.
MPs roundly defeated the proposal by the Finance and National Planning Committee which sought to reintroduce the amendments through the Finance Bill after shelving a similar bid in June through the Tax Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018.
The MPs cited that the 35 per cent was designed to discourage young people from engaging in betting.
The betting firms have appealed to the government to lower the taxes which took effect on January 1, saying is hurting their business and creating a black market for betting.
President Kenyatta explained that his actions are meant to ensure the government finds alternative means of generating an additional Sh7.6 billion to fill the revenue shortfall that resulted from scrapping of the tax by the National Assembly.
He observed the action by the National Assembly violated the Public Finance Management Act.
“Section 40 of the Public Finance Management Act requires any recommendations made by the relevant committee of the National Assembly on revenue raised is consistent with the approved fiscal framework and the Division of Revenue Act, 2018,” read the President’s Memorandum.
The President explained that revenues raised will be used to fund government programmes and projects such the free primary education, improving health facilities and investing heavily in security in the current budget.
“Kenya continues to upgrade the quality of her infrastructure particularly roads, airports, sea ports, standard gauge railway, energy generation among others. The quality of this infrastructure is not comparable to those found in most countries in the sub region and sub-Saharan Africa,” the Head of State emphasised.