17 April 2019

Kenya: Search on for John Njiraini's Successor at KRA

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The controversial term of Kenya Revenue Authority boss John Njiraini is ending, with his job finally advertised.

Audit firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), which has been contracted to recruit the next commissioner-general, gave applicants 10 days to submit their documents, a fairly short window for such a high-profile job.

Mr Njiraini's exit and sourcing of his replacement fuelled a boardroom war at KRA that had a dramatic end after it pulled President Uhuru Kenyatta's hand to send nearly the entire board packing.

Besides surviving the coup, he is seen as the blue-eyed boy of the Jubilee administration. When the State scrapped the retirement age of chief executive officers of State corporations, that effectively defeated a lawsuit by activist Okiya Omtatah against his tenure. A second suit to push him out failed too.

Mr Njiraini attained the mandatory retirement age of 60 on December 19, 2017.

BOARD REPLACED

It was when he was about to begin his mandatory leave that drama started. His term would be extended for one year, causing a major rift in the KRA boardroom.

As the board plotted to send him home in May 2018, State House appeared to have other plans for him.

President Kenyatta replaced five of the nine KRA board members, among them chairman Edward Sambili, through a special Kenya Gazette notice.

The notice sacking them was also backdated, which nullified the decisions they had made during the conflict.

Besides Dr Sambili, the other members kicked out were Mr Evans Kakai, Ms Constance Kandie, Mr Rashid Ali and Mr Abdi Barre Duale, who was given a soft landing by being named chairman of the Kenya Leather Development Council.

SUCCESSOR

Dr Sambili was replaced by the former head of Public Service Francis Muthaura, whose first main job was to steady the ship at KRA and set in motion plans to find Mr Njiraini's successor.

PwC says the key responsibilities of the commissioner-general include management of funds and property of the authority.

The ideal candidate must have a first degree from a reputable accredited university and relevant professional qualifications.

Applicants should also have at least 15 years of working experience, of which 10 must be at senior leadership level in large, public or private entities.

The recruitment comes at a time when the taxman has been falling below targets, forcing the government to forego some development projects or turn to loans.

TAX TARGETS

Every year, the government has been loading higher tax targets on KRA to help it fund its ballooning budget.

But in the past five years, despite growing its tax collections, the taxman has always fallen below target on grounds of poor funding as well as impossible targets that do not factor in the economic conditions in the country.

Corruption and tax leakages are other challenges, but the biggest has been loading the same pool of taxpayers with new taxes instead of going out to recruit new payers to spread the tax base.

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