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18 arrested as KRA tightens the noose on tax cheats

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By KENNEDY KIMANTHI
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A presidential directive that Kenya Revenue Authority renews the drive to catch tax evaders appears to have gathered momentum after several individuals were arrested on Saturday for not paying their dues to the State.

More arrests are expected to be made in the coming days as Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji directed that 18 individuals be charged with various offences relating to evasion and avoidance of tax payment which has over time led to perennial shortfall in KRA collections.

Among those facing the fresh charges include former Kenya Bureau of Standards chief executive Charles Ongwae and former director of Quality Assurance Eric Kiptoo.

This comes against the backdrop of pressure for the government to pay its rising debts and fund its many projects as President Kenyatta’s second and final term in office gets under way.

In a statement, Mr Haji said two importers — Gendipe Enterprises and Rupai Trading Ltd and their clearing agent Landmark Freight Services Ltd — concealed imported goods with the aim of evading taxes and reducing amount of penalties payable for goods arriving without certificate of conformity from the country of origin.

Investigations established that the two companies imported goods from Dubai which were declared to be imported machinery whose payable taxes are between 0-10 per cent.

But after re-verification of the containers, it was established they contained cooking oil and assorted dutiable goods whose import taxes range from 25-35 per cent of the total custom value.

According to Mr Haji, valuation confirmed that the actual taxes payable by Gendipe Enterprises and Rupai Trading Ltd were Sh7.1 million and Sh52 million, respectively.

“Further it was established that Gendipe Enterprises paid a penalty of Sh148,816 instead of the required Sh4.4 million while Rupai Trading Ltd paid a Sh148,300 penalty instead of Sh4.4 million,” DPP Haji said.

“In general, the country lost a total of Sh64, 944,112 that would have been received as revenue,” he continued.

The Tax Procedures Act says it is a crime for anyone to knowingly omit certain details when filing their tax returns. KRA acts by either suing the person or taking them to court for criminal trial.

KRA missed its revenue collection target for the 2017-2018 financial year by Sh172.4 billion.

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It collected Sh1.48 trillion against a target of Sh1.65 trillion and last hit its collection target in the 2010-2011 financial year, when the then President Mwai Kibaki was nearing the end of his second term.

The taxman is banking on automated technology and corroboration with other law enforcement agencies to eliminate fraud that has cost the government billions of shillings in lost revenue.

Some of the new technologies that have been introduced include an Integrated Scanner Command Centre which enables KRA officers from Nairobi to easily verify the kind of goods being imported into and exported out of the country.

President Kenyatta recently launched the Regional Electric Cargo Tracking System which enables it to track on real time all trucks leaving the Port of Mombasa to destinations in either Uganda or Rwanda. This has reduced cases of goods destined for the regional markets being diverted to the local market.

The president also revisited the matter of lifestyle audits for KRA staff, saying it will help weed out rogue employees.

In a recent interview, KRA’s commissioner for intelligence and strategic operations, Mr Githii Mburu, said it will not be business as usual for individuals who appear rich but have little to show it in terms of taxes remitted.

This department with a team of about 100 investigators, is charged with probing people’s sources of income and their expenditure against the tax remitted.

It scrutinises various documents, including bank statements, import records, motor vehicle registration details, Kenya Power details and water bills among others.

“We’ll go overdrive. The indication we’ve got is that we need to do more because there are lots of these people,” said Mr Mburu.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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