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Uhuru wins as MPs endorse tax proposal

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By DAVID MWERE
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By SAMWEL OWINO
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By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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IConfusion marred debate on the president’s reservations on Finance Bill, 2018, after MPs expressed sharp disagreement with the manner in which the vote on the introduction of the fuel tax was conducted.

The House adopted the reservations during a chaotic sitting on Thursday, characterised by boos and jeers and bearing similarities to the enactment of Security Laws (Amendments) Bill, 2015.

With the victory, the executive has the power to raise up to Sh130 billion through taxes including the eight percent levy on fuel products, that will see about 17.5 billion realised.

Sugar confectioneries will bring in about Sh475 million, money transfers Sh11.4 billion, betting companies and winners Sh30 billion, the housing fund 10 billion and kerosene Sh9.8 billion.

The memorandum proposed a deletion of the 0.05 percent ‘Robin Hood’ tax which had been proposed on 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 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 per liter to check adulteration of fuel as well as split the current 35 percent tax on betting companies to include the winners.

The target in this case is to raise Sh9.8 billion. This will see betting companies charged 15 percent, on top of the 30 percent charged in terms of corporate income, and winners 20 percent.

MPs arrived in the morning for the sitting. It was specially created to allow them to discuss the supplementary budget estimates and the reservations on the bill.

From the onset, it had been clear that the lawmakers were opposed to the president’s reservations.

The first sign that trouble lay ahead 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 said he wanted the president’s reservations debated ahead before the budget estimates. Speaker Justin Muturi remained adamant and informed the House that the paper was cast in stone.

The MPs easily approved the financial estimates, saying they had no problem with the decision by the executive to reorganise allocations due to various departments and ministries.

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

The approval of the budget gives the government legal backing to spend the re-organised budget once it is signed into law by the president.

The moment the Speaker exited the House and Ms Soipan Tuya took over to steer the business in the committee of the whole House, the MPs started chanting “zero”, in reference to their wish for petroleum products to be zero-rated.

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.

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On the right of the Speaker, Jubilee Party MPs seemed equally unhappy with the presidents recommendations but expressed themselves differently.

Jubilee Secretary General Raphael Tuju arrived earlier and was later joined by the party’s vice chairman David Murathe.

A majority of MPs walked out in protest and the unending jeers prompted the speaker to return to the house.

After listening to five members from both sides, Mr Muturi ruled that a second vote would take place as there was a dispute on the number of members in the House.

He then called a 15-minute break but when the House resumed, the speaker had changed his mind. He ended up upholding the halving of the 16 percent Value Added Tax on petroleum products as proposed by the president.

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

Boos, jeers and renditions of bado mapambano (the struggle continues) enveloped a House united for the first time in a long time as MPs continuously chanted “zero”.

Minority Leader John Mbadi, while supporting the memorandum, had said that in the bill taken to the president for assent, there was no proposal for zero rating of petroleum products.

He was jeered by his colleagues who shouted ‘zero’ and forced to cut short his remarks.

There was no smooth sailing for the executive as MPs were left accusing the Speaker of rigging the vote, saying it had been clear that the opponents would win.

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

MPs Kajwang, Vincent Tuwei, Mohammed Ali, Makali Mulu and Millie Odhiambo had raised objections on the decision by Ms Tuya that gave victory to the ‘yes’ voters, and through chants and boos forced the Speaker back to the floor.

Duale was captured seemingly de-whipping members from the House to deny the House the requisite two thirds majority that would have seen the memo thrown out.

After the vote, Mr Duale confirmed having forced some MPs from the chambers, saying that as majority leader, his plot was to ensure the government agenda was achieved.

On Wednesday, the majority leader said that while MPs want to stand with the public on the VAT, there is need to raise money for development and other government projects.

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

Speaking to journalists after the adjournment, Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru described the vote as a show of dictatorship.

“Mr President, stamp your authority and don’t be swayed by cheap politics around Parliament,” she said, surrounded by colleagues who said they would fight on.

Legislators who talked to the Nation but did not want to be named said they cannot go against the decisions of their party leaders.

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

Most got caught between fulfilling the wishes of their leaders and those of the electorate.



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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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