The ‘Tax Collector’ President Sparking Kenyans’ Anger; 10 Governors Spend Nothing on Development in First Quarter & President Ruto Now Targets Diplomats For Revenue

Good morning,

In the wake of the devastating El Niño rains in Kenya, the tragic toll on human lives continues to climb.

Six more souls have been lost, pushing the grim tally to a heart-wrenching 174 casualties.

Among the recent victims are a mother and child from Guruga village in Kiambu County, their home mercilessly swept away by a landslide triggered by the relentless downpour.

The unforgiving rains have spared none, claiming the lives of four individuals toiling away at a gold mine village in Migori County.

As if the human tragedy isn’t enough, 56 goats perished in Kitui County, adding an agonizing layer to the already dire situation.

The heavy rains have not only claimed lives but have uprooted families, leaving 380 people in 76 households displaced.

Roads, vital lifelines for these communities, now lie battered and broken, compounding the challenges faced by those already grappling with the aftermath.

Tana River, a once tranquil waterway, has transformed into a formidable force, its water levels surging from 3.4m to 4.8m over a single weekend.

The consequence: water spilling onto the Madogo-Garissa Road, a lifeline for many. While the road remains passable, the heightened water levels present perilous obstacles, prompting a stark warning for motorists to exercise extreme caution.

The government’s response, though commendable, is a testament to the severity of the crisis. With 170 camps set up to temporarily shelter the displaced, it’s evident that the scale of the disaster demands urgent and extensive measures.

Meanwhile here are news stories making headlines on Opera News today;

William Ruto: The ‘tax collector’ president sparking Kenyans’ anger

Kenya’s President William Ruto is mockingly referred to as Zakayo – Swahili for the biblical figure Zacchaeus, who is portrayed in the Christian holy book as a greedy tax collector who climbed a tree to see Jesus.

This is because Mr Ruto has introduced a raft of new taxes, and raised old ones, since he was elected president in August 2022, making him unpopular with many Kenyans who believe he has betrayed his campaign pledge to champion the interests of “hustlers” – those who struggle financially.

Mr Ruto has acknowledged that the taxes are “painful” but, in an Independence Day speech on 12 December, said the sacrifices the nation was making “would make our freedom fighters proud”.

For him, higher taxation is necessary to reduce government borrowing, and bring down the national debt, which has soared to 10 trillion shillings ($65bn; £51bn).

“We have made the right choices, sometimes taking very difficult and painful decisions, to steer Kenya back from the edge of the catastrophic cliff of debt distress,” he said.

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President Ruto now targets diplomats for revenue

Kenya has informed diplomatic missions in Nairobi to start paying for government services they were initially exempted from.

But the notice has already created confusion as it does not specify the services diplomats should now be paying for.

Last month, the Ministry of Foreign and Diaspora Affairs wrote to foreign missions in Nairobi, advising that the government had decided to start charging them for services as they don’t fall under the category of taxes.

“Following an inter-ministerial meeting of government agencies, it was reported, discussed and agreed that the hitherto exempted service fee was in fact payable and is not exempted under the Vienna Convention as well as the Host Country Agreements (HCAs) since these are not taxes or levies,” the November 8 notice said.

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10 governors spend nothing on development in first quarter

Ten governors did not spend a single cent on the development of their counties in the three months to September while three others used less than one percent of their budgets on growth programmes, a report by the Controller of Budget (CoB) says.

The rest of the budget went to salaries and other recurrent spending against the Public Finance Management (PFM) Act that says development spending should cover at least 35 percent of total spending.

The governors who failed to spend on development in the period are Johnson Sakaja of Nairobi, Wavinya Ndeti of Machakos, Gideon Mung’aro (Kilifi), Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Cecily Mbarire (Embu), and Ahmed Abdullahi (Wajir). Also making the list are Jonathan Lelelit (Samburu), Simon Kachapin (West Pokot), Jeremiah Lomorukai (Turkana) and Erick Mutai of Kericho.

The CoB, in her report on counties’  budget implementation during the first quarter of 2023/24 (July – September), revealed that the nine spent all the money paying salaries and other recurrent expenditures.

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