Kenya's Jubilee MPs met President Uhuru Kenyatta at State House yesterday and listened to him but left vowing to defeat his memorandum.
It was the same case at Orange House where his new bosom buddy Raila Odinga chaired a meeting of his ODM and Wiper MPs and tried to persuade them to accept Uhuru's tax proposals. They too left vowing to defy their party leader's plea.
Although about 10 MPs were given a chance to speak during the Jubilee Parliamentary Group Meeting unlike the past, the legislators felt that they were not given enough time to raise their issues and that no compromise was struck.
A statement from State House later said the legislators had agreed to support the President's proposals which include the 8 percent VAT, a reduction of the popular CDF and the affirmative action fund patronized by the 47 women representatives.
Separately, a NASA leadership statement read by Junet Mohammed gave conditional support to the memorandum.
The State House statement acknowledged that the meeting was heated but did not give details. It asserted that the MPs unanimously agreed that there should be budgetary cuts to accommodate the reduction in VAT.
Several MPs who attended the meeting told the Star separately that about 10 of their colleagues were given a chance to speak.
"Apart from one, all those who spoke did not raise our issues. We will now make our own decisions about the proposed cuts,” said one.
At some point, the President is said to have stopped Kipipiri MP Amos Kimunya who had opposed the reduction of Parliament's budget and challenged him to say how he dealt with such issues during his time as Finance minister.
Deputy President William Ruto was reportedly more pushy, insisting that MPs, like any other Kenyans, had to accept budget cuts.
"Ruto was very firm and demanded that we adopt the memorandum," said an MP from Rift Valley.
But after the meeting, the lawmakers said they will stand with their people and defy the party’s directive when they vote tomorrow.
At Orange House, several MPs who spoke to The Star talked of a stormy two-hour meeting as MPs put a spirited fight against Raila’s appeal to them to approve the President’s proposal.
The MPs who were said to be reading from a similar script tried in vain to explain to their unmoved leader the negative implication of any VAT increment on fuels to both the economy and common man.
After listening to the MPs’ reservations, Raila is said to have pulled out of nowhere and read a written resolution supporting Uhuru’s proposals.
“We tried to explain our considered opinion to the Party Leader but we were overruled. But we are still determined to stand with our people when the matter is finally subjected to a vote on Thursday,” said one MP off the record.
“We were surprised that the resolution finally read to us finally had no resemblance to what we were discussing all along,” confided another MP.
In Parliament, adamant MPs said they will vote against the President’s memorandum claiming Kenyans support zero taxation on fuel products.
“That was the party decision; I will express the position of my people on the floor of the house as their representative,” said Wajir West MP Ahmed Kolosh (ODM).
Baringo Central MP Joshua Kandie (Maendeleo Chap Chap) who is among the Jubilee allies who snubbed the meeting at State House said they are mobilizing members across the political formations to defeat the Bill tomorrow.
“By yesterday (Monday), we had over 260 MPs opposing the Bill. I hope MPs will rise to the occasion and not vote along the party lines,” said Kandie.
After reading the communique, House Speaker Justin Muturi referred the proposals to the Budget and Appropriation Committee chaired by Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa.
The Committee will deliberate on the President’s memorandum the whole of today and is expected to present a report to the House on Thursday for consideration.
Chairs of all committees of the National Assembly save for the two oversight committees — PAC and PIC — were invited to attend the meeting.
The Jubilee PG meeting at State House was attended by Ruto, Secretary General Raphael Tuju and the parliamentary leadership.
At the meeting, President Kenyatta emphasized that transporters should not take advantage and increase fares beyond those recommended by the National Transport and Safety Authority (NTSA). He warned that those who exceed will lose their PSV licences.
Uhuru last week returned the Finance Bill 2018/2019 to Parliament for re-consideration with a proposal to reduce VAT on all petroleum products by 50 per cent.
The reduction from 16 to 8 per cent means a reduction of pump prices, which is a relief as the current petrol price will drop from Sh127 to about Sh118 while those of diesel will come down from Sh115 to Sh 107 in Nairobi.
To plug the budgetary gap occasioned by the proposed VAT reduction, Treasury has recommended wide-ranging austerity measures across all arms of government to cut on costs.
To balance the national budget as required under the law, Uhuru said the proposed cuts in government spending will target less essential cost areas such as hospitality, foreign and domestic travel, training and seminars.
“These budget cuts ask of us in government that we tighten our belts. It also ensures that the sacrifices made by tax-compliant Kenyans are matched by discipline,” said the President.
The Finance Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament today.