Kenyans are currently in a limbo as to whether they might need to tighten their belts soon, following the gazette notice that put the 1.5% Housing Levy in effect. The recently published gazette notice did not sit well with many employees in the formal sector who had to deal with the reality of parting with a little from their salaries to finance the government’s affordable housing project.
The illegality of this directive by the Ministry of Transport did not escape the Consumers Federation of Kenya (COFEK) who filed a case that is to be heard and determined on 20th May 2019. First, the Ministry disregarded the Labor Court’s ruling from last year after COTU successfully challenged implementation of the housing levy. Secondly, the Ministry totally overlooked the matter of public participation even when the matter is obviously one that largely affects the taxpayer who’s already overburdened. This therefore makes the directive unconstitutional and paints a bad picture on a government eager to bully their way into collecting revenue.
If one was to do a “pros and cons” list regarding the National Housing Debt Fund (NHDF) the cons easily outweigh the pros. Mass looting has eroded any little faith that Kenyans had in the government where public funds are concerned. The question that most Kenyans have is whether this fund will be spared from misappropriation given that the penalties for doing so are a slap on the wrist.
While the fund is meant to make the Housing Pillar in the Big 4 Agenda a reality, its framework is questionable. Kenyans lack the option of opting out even when most taxpayers have made individual arrangements to acquire a home, putting them at risk of being double-burdened with this levy. Shouldn’t the ministry make this levy optional as the fund risks being non-beneficial to those who may not as be lucky to be allocated a home through the lottery method that will be employed?
The rationale behind this levy is problematic as the economic implications are far much adverse if effected. People are at risk of losing their jobs if the ministry effects this, as employers may seek to reduce cuts they’ll be subjected to. The taxpayer is tired of toiling hard only for them to be overtaxed. The taxpayer is tired of seeing the monies that ought to create an enabling environment for them, pocketed by a few who create further stringent measures that hurt them.
The government ought to respect the same constitution that it’s enshrined in. A constitution that mandates the parliament and government offices to involve the public in making of laws that stand to affect their livelihood. The same constitution that states that the Rule of Law should be observed by all. The same constitution that accords the judiciary independence and demands that the executive obeys court rulings.
We’re fostering a dangerous culture whereby courts give direction on contentious matters only for leaders to find back doors through which they can push their agendas. Kenyans are being compelled to register for the Huduma Number even after the court ruled that it wasn’t mandatory? Didn’t the government recently send farmers in to panic mode with the Dairy Board Regulations that were issued without public participation? This back and forth with the courts may result in a citizenry that may resort to underhanded means just to avoid parting with an extra dime.
The fate of Kenyans paycheck now hangs in the balance until May 20th when the court gives a direction which, hopefully, will be respected by the government.