Category Archives: Auditors

Sportpesa return flames out

Last Friday, there was a bold tweet by the CEO of Sportpesa announcing the return of the company to full business, with partnerships for sports development to follow.

This comes after a crackdown last year crackdown on gambling companies through a moral push, taxation claims and difficulties renewing licenses, which all led many of the top betting companies to scale back their sponsorships and operations.

But the announcement, just as the English and European soccer leagues that are popular with betting punters get into gear, was followed by a surprising turn of events.

The following morning, the Chairman of the Betting Control and Licensing Board had a press conference and issued a statement about information that Sportpesa Global had granted to Milestone Games permission to operate as ‘Sportpesa’. It went on to say that had licensed Milestone to operate in the country, but asserted that Sportpesa is owned by Pevans East Africa and that no other company can use its name brand, domains and mobile phone shortcodes – asked directed Milestone to use its own website.

Then over the weekend, one of the other Sportpesa shareholders, Paul Wanderi Ndung’u also released a statement on behalf of Kenyan shareholders of Sportpesa and said he had been unaware of the developments with Milestone. He also made some serious claims about the company:

  • Said the problems of the company started in 2017 when its executive directors allied with its foreign shareholders and started running the company without reference to the board. 
  • Said that another director, Asenath Maina, had requested a forensic audit in 2019 on the firm, but that the foreign shareholders, who had been since been deported from Kenya, continue to frustrate the audit.
  • In three years Pevans East Africa (Sportpesa) has transferred $250 million to the Isle of Man, Dubai, the Canary Islands and the UK. Then, after the company closed, it transferred another $17.5 million to Sportpesa Tanzania and $0.5 million to Sportpesa South Africa.
  • KPMG and Deloitte &Touche have resigned as auditors and tax advisers respectively of Sportpesa Global in the UK, while PricewaterhouseCoopers resigned as the auditor of the Kenyan business.
  • Officers from the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) have visited Sportpesa’s Nairobi office – and this was linked to negative media and parliamentary coverage in the UK.

To be continued . .

Absa Kenya absorbs Covid hit

Absa Kenya reported their June financial results, continuing the thread of banks taking being impacted by the reduced business activity and increased credit risks occasioned by COVID-19.

Kenya’s fifth-largest bank with Kshs 392 billion ($3.62 billion) in assets saw its deposits and loans higher than 8% last June and a pre-provision profit of Kshs 8.6 billion for the half-year.

However, the bank increased its provisions for bad loans threefold due to COVID-19 impacts and IFRS9 guidelines from Kshs 1.6 billion to 5.3 billion. This resulted in a net profit before tax and exceptional items of Kshs 3 billion, down from Kshs 6 billion last June, with a further one-time charge of Kshs 1.7 billion as the cost of completing the transformation from Barclays to Absa in the first half of the year.

During COVID, the bank had focused on helping its customers manage their livelihoods and has restructured 56,000 loan accounts, worth Kshs 57 billion, 28% of the loan book. COVID-19 has hit across the sector and commercial banks in Kenya have restructured a combined Kshs 844 billion of loans, 29% of the industry’s total. Absa’s bad loans are now at 8% compared to 13.1% average for the banking sector in June 2020.

KPMG on Kenya Taxes in 2020

Last month, Kenya’s President announced proposals to cushion residents from impacts of the Coronavirus that has affected many industries and companies by disrupting supply chains and reducing consumer spending. He cited measures such as reduction of income taxes, and Value-Added Tax (VAT goes down from 16% to 14%), that have now taken root in April 2020.

But the details of the proposal are now clear with the publication of the tax laws amendments. They are contained in a 97-page bill that is to be tabled at and debated at a special session of Kenya’s National Assembly (Parliament) on Wednesday, April 8, for their approval.

KPMG East Africa has nicely summarized some of the proposals in the bill, picking through the details. Some notable items are:

  • VAT: Items that were previously exempt including bread, milk cream, vaccines, and medicaments, move from the zero list to the VAT exempt list, and this may push up their costs.
  • Items that previously did not incur VAT but which will now be charged 14% include agricultural pest control products, tourism park fees, LPG, helicopters, mosquito nets, equipment for solar & wind energy, museum exhibits & specimens, tractors, clean cookstoves, insurance services, and helicopter leasing which previously did not attract VAT.
  • For investors: VAT is now charged on the transfer of a business as a going concern, as well as on assets transfers to real estate investment trusts (REIT’s) and asset-backed securities.
  • Income tax: Is reduced across different bands with those earning below Kshs 24,000 per month exempted from paying income tax, while the tax rate for top earners goes down from 30% to 25%.
  • Non-residents will pay 15% withholding tax on dividends they receive, an increase from the current 10%.
  • Corporate tax: This reduces from 30% to 25%.
  • Businesses earning between Kshs 500,000 to Kshs 50 million a year are to pay turnover tax, which will now be reduced from 3% to 1% of income, monthly. The previous upper limit was Kshs 5 million.
    It is now mandatory for businesses to keep records of all their transaction for 5 years
  • Anti-industry moves?: An electricity rebate for manufacturers has been ended, VAT has been introduced on goods used to build large industrial parks, and there will also be reductions of building investment allowances.
  • Kenya Revenue Authority: When KRA appoints banks as revenue collection agents, they are to remit collections to the Central Bank of Kenya within two days.
  • Removes a requirement that KRA publishes tax rulings in newspapers.
  • KRA may pay rewards of up to Kshs 500,000 for people who give information leading to tax law enforcement (i.e whistleblowers). 

The National Assembly will also consider regulations of a new Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund that the President announced on March 30. They will also dispense with appointments to the CDF board and the Teachers Service Commission, and consider any bills from the Senate.

So while Parliament debates this under the rush of emergency provisions, most of the clauses are financial items unrelated to Coronavirus.

KPMG on Geopolitical Risks and Opportunities

KPMG’s Audit Committee Institute series organized a breakfast session in Nairobi today that assessed the risks posed by global events & trends and the potential opportunities that could emerge. The session took place at a time when countries and industries around the world are gripped by concerns and efforts to contain the spread and impact of the Coronavirus.

Sophie Heading, KPMG Global’s Head of Geopolitics, who is on a tour to speak in different capitals around East Africa mentioned that geopolitics now affects the developed world as much as it does for developing countries. She said that US domestic governance is the number one political risk across the world, and that while there has been a shift in leadership away from the US & Europe (G-7 nation) towards China, currently we are in a G-Zero world in which there is no clear leader.

She referenced three distinct areas of technology, trade and trust in which geopolitics could be traced along, and the opportunities they presented for different African countries.

Excerpts

  • Technology: Advances bring geopolitical power and this is likely to spread to other markets – as seen in the battle between the US and China over spectrum (5G), data, and platforms. China is looking to reshape the Sub-Saharan Africa technological space while the US wants to protect its security interests and intellectual property.
  • Trade: The US and China have decided to decouple and go separate ways and other countries will have to choose who to align with. Both are seeking new alliances, investors, partners, suppliers, staff etc. but this is also at a time that other key markets are increasing their regulations in terms of capital, policies, taxes and data, etc. Foreign aid used to be a tool that Western states used to influence economic events in Africa, but with the Chinese model of financing infrastructure being so successful, she expected that there will be a drop in aid from the West as it is no longer seen as being effective.
  • Trust: There is social discontent across the world as young populations feel that government systems are not meeting their needs. This is different in developed nations versus it is in developing ones. But because of their debt levels, most nations now have less policy flexibility to address their internal issues. Also with global growth having slowed down to about 3%, and which may reduce further to as low as 1.5% with the Coronavirus outbreak, any such interventions may widen the social wealth divides within countries.

She said that there is more need to pay more attention to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues. This is something that Europe, and the private sector, have championed, but which other governments have not, while the US, China and India have all stepped back on the environmental front.

She cautioned that Nairobi, which is the second-biggest hub in the region for impact investing, but without the Kenya government signalling its interest in championing of ESG issues, may lose out on future investment and client opportunities.

Rethinking tax incentives in Kenya’s investment promotion efforts

A recent court ruling declaring the Kenya-Mauritius Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) void has sent Kenya back to the negotiating table with Mauritius. The court’s judgment is based on the fact that the DTAA was not properly ratified under Kenyan law. Kenya’s government argues that the treaty promotes investment and jobs; however, critics such as the Tax Justice Network Africa (TJNA), which filed this suit, argue that DTAAs rarely lead to any benefits for developing countries. TJNA argues that instead, they result in massive revenue leakage for African countries which outweighs incoming foreign direct investment (FDI).

Should countries, therefore, abandon the use of DTAAs? The answer more than likely lies in the middle: to bring real benefits to the economy and promote local market potential, countries should balance between the use DTAAs and other tax incentives such as special economic zones (SEZs).

Kenya’s DTAA with Mauritius was signed in 2014 with the hope of boosting foreign direct investment, but the benefits of the agreement were poorly defined from the outset. Similar to any policy, DTAAs must be rooted in clear and measurable objectives supported by equally clear policy levers to ensure that revenue generated from the resident country is not leaked through tax avoidance schemes like profit-shifting. Studies show that DTAAs signed between countries with asymmetric investment positions are less likely to lead to any benefits for developing countries. In the Netherlands, for example, DTAAs led to forgone revenue of at least USD 863 million for developing countries in 2011.

Given Kenya’s current budget deficit of USD 3.75 billion, it is critical that efforts to attract FDI such as DTAAs do not cannibalise local efforts to improve tax revenue. Numerous studies show that countries rarely achieve substantive FDI levels to make up for the revenue losses these DTAAs cause. The failed Kenya-Mauritius DTAA is not the first time a tax agreement with the island nation has been subject to controversy: in 2017, India reviewed its DTAA with Mauritius after reports showed that it had opened room for tax avoidance resulting in revenue leakage of about USD 600 million annually. In 2016 alone, Mauritian firms injected more than USD 50 million into the Kenyan economy, a 72 percent increase from 5 years prior. If the Dutch and Indian examples are any indication, Kenya could be losing far more. Lost corporate revenue is income that Kenya urgently needs to meet its development objectives. A shift to other tax incentives whose impact is more ascertainable may be more effective for many developing countries.

If the goal of DTAAs is to increase foreign investment in Kenya, they must be considered in conjunction with the broader ecosystem of policy instruments that can be used to increase tax revenues to achieve Kenya’s four priority pillars for economic growth. The government hopes to raise the manufacturing sector’s share of the GDP from 9% to 15%, and create 1.3 million jobs in this sector by 2022. To achieve this, governments should explore specific tax incentives that can provide direct benefits to these areas, such as special economic zones, which aim to maximise the “cluster effects” of activities through knowledge and supply chain integration, centralised access to critical infrastructure like roads and electricity, as well as enhanced support from local government.

Kenya, in making strides to use other tax incentives such as Special Economic Zones, should borrow lessons from its neighbours on reaping full benefits from SEZs. Rwanda, for example, has successfully leveraged SEZs to promote growth. In 2016, the Kigali Special Economic Zone (KSEZ) employed 2% of the country’s permanent employees, and accounted for 2.5% of all VAT reported sales. In Kenya, the government has already designated Mombasa, Kisumu, and Lamu as the future SEZs but to maximise their impact and avoid the development of enclaves, it is essential that firms in these SEZs interact with firms outside the zones and that the government ensures knowledge and best practices developed are shared across the economy.

Tax incentives alone will never be the sole factor attracting investors — to increase FDI, Kenya must continue to demonstrate strong market potential by providing business support and trade facilitation services. KPMG finds that Kenyan products are among the top four countries in Africa that score above the global average in terms of competitiveness on the international market; however, it still takes an average of 22 days to start a business — compared to 6.5 days in Egypt and 14 in Ghana — and poor availability of market data can complicate efforts at local expansion. To improve the country’s competitiveness, the Kenya Investment Authority should improve the availability of data for investors by working more closely with the Kenya Bureau of Statistics. Reducing business costs, for example, by bringing down the cost of imports for required goods or improving data quality to support manufacturing and value-added services will always outweigh lowering taxes.

The DTAA ruling prompts a careful re-examination of how to increase FDI without incurring unintended knock-on effects like tax avoidance. To do this, Kenya must enhance its capacity when negotiating bilateral agreements, and enact policies to support proper implementation of these agreements. In its use of tax incentives, it is critical that the scales are always tipped in Kenya’s favour. The impact of each incentive employed must be clear and measurable to ascertain that its benefits outweigh any associated costs.

A guest post by Bathsheba Asati and Faith Nyabuto of the Botho Emerging Markets Group. 

See also: The Kenyan Guide to Mauritius for business travelers.

EDIT: In July 2020, Kenya and Mauritius entered a new five-year agreement for the avoidance of double-taxation and to prevent fiscal evasion of income taxes. It also binds the two nations to exchange information and to assist each other in collecting taxes due.