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Drama and chaos as MPs vote for tax

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By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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By SAMWEL OWINO
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By DAVID MWERE
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Parliament on Thursday endorsed the Presidential reservations on the Finance Bill, 2018, in a chaotic sitting, at the end of which the House was sharply divided on the manner in which a tax on fuel was adopted.

With the victory, the Executive has the power to raise up to Sh130 billion through the eight percent levy on fuel products that will see about Sh17.5 billion realised from sugar confectioneries (Sh475 million), money transfers (Sh11.4 billion), betting companies and winners (Sh30 billion), housing fund (10 billion) and kerosene (Sh9.8 billion).

The memorandum proposed a deletion of 0.05 percent “Robin Hood” tax regime, which had been proposed on the money transfers of at least Sh500,000.

The government plans to recoup the lost revenue through the 20 percent imposed on the charges banks levy on customers in money transfers, meaning that the transfer charges could still go up.

There is also a new proposal to increase the price of kerosene by Sh18 a litre to check against adulteration, as well as split the current 35 percent tax on betting companies to include the winners.

This targets to raise Sh9.8 billion. Betting companies will be charged 15 percent on top of the 30 percent they pay on corporate income, while the winners will have to surrender 20 percent of their winnings to the State.

But it was not easy sailing for the executive as MPs accused the Speaker of having rigged the poll, arguing that it was clear those opposed to the memo had won.

MPs Tom Kajwang’, Vincent Tuwei, Mohammed Ali, Makali Mulu and Millie Odhiambo objected to the decision by Ms Soipan Tuya to give victory to the ayes; and through chants and boos forced the Speaker back to the floor.

The moment it was clear that pro-Kenyatta side was in danger of losing, Majority Leader Aden Duale was captured whipping members out of the House, presumably to deny it the requisite two-thirds majority that would have seen the memo thrown out.

Later, Mr Duale confirmed having forced some MPs from the chambers, arguing that as the majority leader, his plan was to deny those opposing the numbers and ensure that the government agenda was achieved.

After the House adjourned, MPs opposed to the memo cried foul, arguing that that the Executive had rigged the vote in collusion with the House leadership.

Speaking to journalists after the adjournment, Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru expressed anger at what she described as dictatorship displayed in the House.

“Mr President, stamp your authority and don’t be swayed by cheap politics around Parliament,” she protested even as MPs vowed to fight on.

Boos, jeers and singing of “Bado mapambano” (the struggle continues) rent the air as many MPs appeared to have found an issue around which they could unite, with some chanting “zero!” in reference to their push to have tax on fuel removed, arguing that its introduction would make life difficult for the ordinary person.

At one point, an enraged House shouted down Speaker Justin Muturi and Clerk Michael Sialai, accusing them of being part of a scheme to introduce the fuel tax through the back door.

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All had seemed quiet and normal as the MPs arrived in the House in the morning for the sitting that had been specially created to allow members to discuss the Supplementary Financial Estimates and the Presidential reservations on the Finance Bill.

The first sign emerged when Kiminini MP Chris Wamalwa stood on a point of order and sought to amend the Order Paper to reorganise the business of the day.

In his presentation, Mr Wamalwa wanted the President’s reservation on the Finance Bill debated ahead of the debate on the estimates.

An adamant Speaker refused and informed the House that the order of business was cast in stone, and they had to conduct it the way the House Business Committee had planned it.

The MPs went on to easily approve the Supplementary financial estimates, arguing that they had no problem with the decision by the Executive to reorganise allocations due to various departments and ministries.

In the estimates, Treasury had slashed Sh37.6 million from the Sh3.026 trillion budget for the current financial year.

The approval of the budget now gives the government legal backing to spend the reorganised budget once it is signed into law by the President.

But everything went wrong in the afternoon during the debate on the Presidential memorandum.

From the onset, it was clear many lawmakers were opposed to the President’s reservations.

The moment the Speaker left the House and Ms Tuya took over to steer the business in the committee of the whole, the MPs started chanting “zero” in reference to their desire to have fuel products zero rated, opposing President Uhuru Kenyatta’s eight percent proposal.

The chants were more pronounced on the left of the Speaker, seats usually occupied by the minority Nasa coalition, where Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang’ proved an effective leader.

On the right of the Speaker, a section of Jubilee MPs were equally unhappy with the President’s recommendations but chose a different way of expressing their misgivings, maybe for fear of victimisation.

Jubilee Party Secretary-General Raphael Tuju arrived in Parliament early in the day just to ensure that the President had his way.

He was joined by party Vice-Chairman David Murathe in the afternoon after it became clear that things were not going well. The endless jeers prompted the speaker to come back to the house.

After listening to five members from both the majority and the minority, the Speaker ruled that a second round of voting would take place as there was a dispute over the numbers of the members present in the House when the question was put.

He then called for a 15-minute break but when the House resumed, the Speaker had changed mind.

Quoting from the Hansard, he upheld the decision that indicated that the House had adopted the President’s memo on VAT on fuel, attracting more chants and boos.

MPs who talked to the Nation and did not want to be named said they cannot go against the decision of their party leaders.

“People listen to Raila Odinga more than me. He can explain to them later what happened but I cannot, so let me just support the President’s memorandum,” a first term opposition MP said.

Most of MPs found themselves having to choose between what they thought were the interests of their electorate and the instructions of their party leaders: A majority chose to simply take instructions.

Minority Leader John Mbadi – while supporting the memorandum – said in the Finance Bill taken to the President for assent, there was no proposal for zero rating of VAT on petroleum products.

Mr Mbadi was, however, booed by his colleagues who shouted “zero…zero…zero” and was forced to cut short his remarks.

On Wednesday, Mr Duale said while the MPs want to stand with the public on VAT, there is also need to raise money for development and government projects.



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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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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