20 September 2018

Kenya: Muturi Upholds Vote on 8% Fuel VAT Amid 'Rigging' Claims

Nairobi — National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi found himself in a tight spot Thursday evening after he upheld a ruling allowing taxation of fuel at the rate of eight per cent based on a contentious vote by acclamation.

Pleas by lawmakers who voted against the motion fell on deaf ears as Speaker Muturi insisted on going by the official record of the House - the Hansard - in which Temporary Speaker Soipan Tuya ruled against the legislators opposing the taxation of fuel.

The fuel tax is contained in President Uhuru Kenyatta's memorandum to the House in which he proposed eight per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on petroleum products following his refusal to sign the Finance Bill (2018) which sought to scrap a 16 VAT on fuel that took effect on September 1.

"We have a total of 215 members in the House and in that case the ayes have it," Speaker Muturi quoted the Hansard.

He insisted that House business continues amid jeers by members who disputed the outcome.

"The clause which was under consideration at the point of that particular vote was carried and therefore the House will proceed on committee to the next order," he ruled amid political liberation chants as the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit muted the proceedings.

Ruaraka lawmaker TJ Kajwang had led colleague members in rejecting President Kenyatta's memorandum recommending the taxation of fuel at the rate of eight per cent, the Head of State having rescinded on an earlier proposal of sixteen per cent.

"The Temporary Speaker had satisfied herself that we were 234 at the beginning before we voted. We're not going to be cowed. This is Bunge!" Kajwang protested.

He called out Majority Leader Aden Duale and his minority counterpart John Mbadi whom he accused of leading a walkout of some 30 members to undermine the vote.

House laws require a two-thirds representation on the floor before voting commences, with movement of members inside or outside of the chamber strictly prohibited on such occasions.

It remained unclear how 234 members present against the threshold of 233 reduced to 215 as captured in the official record of the House.

There was also contention after the electronic systems in the House indicated that there were 352 members which exceed the 349 members who sit in the National Assembly.

Members opposing President Kenyatta's proposal said it gave the government the liberty to adjust the VAT per centage on fuel in the immediate future without the approval of the National Assembly.

"The bill as proposed in the amendment would give the Cabinet Secretary for the National Treasury the leeway to adjust the percentage once we accept the eight per cent proposal. We want it at nil!" Kajwang said.

House Minority Leader John Mbadi had, before walking out of the House, accused members opposed to the revised fuel tax of being unreasonable.

"These are members who instead of engaging in debate they're shouting yet they don't know what is in the Bill," he said.

"They're busy rising on point of order yet they don't even comprehend what is in the Bill," he said supporting the fuel tax.

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