CORD plans ambush on Jubilee in House
KENYA: CORD has set up a clash with the Jubilee Government with planned amendments to the VAT Act as Parliament reopens today after a one-month break.
On Monday, a parliamentary group meeting chaired by CORD co-principals Raila Odinga and Moses Wetangula in Nairobi endorsed the proposed changes to the Value Added Tax Act to address the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities.
The opposition lawmakers also took positions on controversial pending business, including Kenya’s relationship with the International Criminal Court, that are in conflict with those taken by Jubilee, ahead of Parliament’s reopening this afternoon.
Given its minority in both Houses, CORD is working on a strategy to set up proponents of the VAT Act against the public, hoping some Jubilee MPs will buckle at the potential backlash.
CORD could also ambush their rivals in the House as some Jubilee MPs have travelled to The Hague in solidarity with Deputy President William Ruto, whose trial resumes today at the ICC.
“As Parliament reconvenes tomorrow (today) and in view of this grave concern of the obvious Jubilee insensitivity to the high cost of basic commodities, we will sponsor an immediate amendment to the VAT Act, to expressly exclude basic items from VAT to cushion ordinary Kenyans from their present suffering,” said Budalangi MP Ababu Namwamba, who read a statement on behalf of CORD.
The coalition has appointed a legal team chaired by Ruaraka MP TJ Kajwang’, to fine-tune the proposals into a draft bill scheduled to be tabled before the House Business Committee (HBC) next week.
Senators Mutula Kilonzo Jnr (Makueni), James Orengo (Siaya) and MPs Davis Ochieng (Ugenya) and Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) are other members of the team.
They are working with a consulting firm of economic experts to identify the commodities that they seek to exempt.
Among the commodities targeted include maize flour (unga), sugar, processed milk, fertiliser, bread, farm implements and various medicines and medical equipment, said CORD.
Seme MP James Nyikal, a former director of medical services, has been tasked to identify the basic medical supplies, such as cancer treatment machines and medicines, that were affected by the new VAT regime for incorporation into the amendment bill.
“We are also working with some technocrats at Treasury who are assisting us to identify what went wrong,” said Kajwang’. “We have a skeleton bill which we are refining with the consulting firm and the lawyers. We hope to table it before the HBC early next week.”
The HBC is the committee that schedules the House agenda.
This will open a fresh battlefront with President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government that pushed through the VAT legislation, which drastically reduced the number of items that are zero-rated. The intention was to, among others things, raise an additional Sh10 billion in revenue for the government.
A consumer rights lobby group called off protest demonstrations it had planned to organise this morning outside the venue of a conference on Kenya’s economic successes after meeting with Treasury officials.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) wanted to make its case against the VAT Act heard by President Uhuru Kenyatta, who is scheduled to open the high level meeting this morning. The conference is hosted by the Treasury and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Cofek announced it is working with two MPs on proposed amendments to the VAT Act. It has asked the President to order “drastic and urgent amendments to the Act” by leaving out of the VAT bracket “all foodstuffs, livestock feed, farm input products, agricultural machinery, electricity and petroleum products, among others.”
Although President Kenyatta has in the recent past told off Raila over his criticism of the VAT law, saying the Jubilee Government had only completed a process initiated by the previous government for which Raila was the Prime Minister, CORD yesterday signaled it would tap into the rising public discontent following the sharp rise in prices occasioned by the VAT Act.
Although CORD is a minority in Parliament, Raila said it is in the best interests of the country to pass the amendments, as Jubilee cannot afford to pass laws that hurt the common mwananchi.
Dagoretti North MP Simba Arati said CORD would take its campaign to the people.
CORD also reiterated that it would use “all means necessary” to block the Government’s attempt to pull Kenya out of the ICC.-standardmedia.co.ke