Category Archives: Kenya parliament

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.

Coronavirus in Kenya: Week One

The Outbreak

  • March 13: The Ministry of Health confirms the first case of coronavirus in Kenya on March 12 from a Kenyan citizen who returned to the country from the USA via London 
  • March 22: Kenya confirms 8 new cases, bringing the total number to 15. It is tracing 363 other people and institutes a mandatory shutdown of major social activities in the country. 

Banking Industry:

  • March 15: President Uhuru Kenyatta appealed to banks and mobile operators to reduce the costs of mobile transactions and calls on Kenyans to use credit cards, mobile money and other forms of cashless payments. 
  • March 16: Safaricom waived fees for M-Pesa payments below Kshs 1,000 (~$10) for 90 days and raises M-Pesa transactions limits to Kshs 150,000 and also increases daily transaction caps and maximum mobile money wallet sizes up to Kshs 300,000 ($3,000). Airtel and Telkom Kenya follow suit a day later. 
  • March 18: Bankers meet the President at State House where the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) Governor announces that all commercial bank personal loans that were there in good standing on March 2, are eligible for extensions for up to one year while SME and corporate borrowers can approach their banks to be assessed for loan restructuring, with the cost borne by banks. Also, that banks would no longer charge fees for customers to check their bank balances.
  • Different banks announced their compliance with the new rules.   
  • March 19: The Kenya Bankers Association confirms that all banks will assist clients who come in to speak about how COVID-19 has affected their employment or business operations, and whose loan repayments were up to date as at 2 March 2020. They also ask all customers to observe 1-metre (or 3 feet) social distancing at branches
  • March 20: The CBK announces presents Kshs 7.4 billion ($74 million) to the Government to support the coronavirus fight efforts. This it says are the proceeds from the demonetization exercise that concluded in September 2019 and is the sum of (old) Kshs 1,000 notes that were not turned in and which the CBK had classified as being miscellaneous receipts. 

Famous People in Quarantine

  • March 18: Senator for Kericho County Aaron Cheruiyot announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Members of Parliament and Parliamentary staff who arrived from London on March 9 are reported to be in self-quarantine. 
  • March 19: Ambassador Macharia Kamau Kenya’s Principal Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announces on twitter that he is in self-quarantine after returning from New York. 
  • March 20: Jane Marriott, the British High Commissioner to Kenya announces on twitter that she is in self-quarantine, following her trip to the UK. 
  • March 22: Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Health announces that Gideon Saburi, the Deputy Governor of Kilifi County, has been apprehended and put in a mandatory 14-day quarantine after he failed to isolate himself after returning from a trip to Germany. Also that he will be charged in Court after his isolation period. 

Mandatory Quarantine in the Eastern Africa region 

  • March 18: Uganda announces immediate mandatory quarantine for arriving visitors, at their cost.  
  • March 21: Ethiopia announces mandatory for passengers arriving from March 23, at their cost. However, diplomats will be quarantined for 14 days at their embassies, while transiting passengers will be placed in isolation at the Ethiopian Skylight Hotel until they resume their connecting flights.
  •  March 22: Kenya has suspended all international flights other than cargo from March 25. Also, all arriving passengers will undergo mandatory quarantine at a government institution at their own cost. 

Internal country shutdowns

  • March 14: Rwanda closes schools, places of worship, large gatherings, and asks people to work from home. 
  • March 15: Kenya’s President announced the Government has closed all schools, suspended official foreign travel, and will encourage all employees to work from home. 
  • March 18: Uganda closes schools, universities and bars, and bans weddings and religious services for a month. 
  • March 21: Rwanda closes its borders to movement of people and cancels international flights, other than cargo ones. It also suspended tourism and research in 3 national parks where gorillas are found.
  • March 21: Nigeria shuts its airports to international flights as coronavirus cases reach 22.  
  • March 21: South Africa closes its airspace to foreign travelers.
  • March 22: Kenya orders a suspension of religious services at all places of worship, closure of bars and bans gatherings including weddings, and birthday parties. Restaurants are to remain open for delivery services and funeral events are restricted to a maximum of 15 mourners.

Flight cancellations/ Airlines reschedulings:

  • March 17: Kenya Airways updates its schedule, reducing London flights to five times a week, Dubai & Johannesburg to once daily, and Johannesburg to two daily. It also suspends flights to Bangkok, Khartoum, Djibouti & Mogadishu. 
  • March 18: Rwanda announces a halt to all commercial passenger flights into/out of the country on March 20 including operations of Rwanda Air for 30 days. 
  • March 19: Kenya Airways suspends flights to Antananarivo, Bamako, Bangui, Blantyre, Brazzaville, Kigali, Kilimanjaro, Luanda, Yaounde/Douala, and Zanzibar. 
  • March 20: Ethiopian Airlines announces 30 routes closures. The list is not revealed till the next day – and the listed countries include Egypt, Lebanon, Somalia, Djibouti, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Chad, Madagascar, Angola, Congo, Mali, Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, Canada, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland, Indonesia, Israel and all US ones. 
  • March 20: South African Airways immediately suspends all operations until the end of May following a government notice prohibiting the embarkation/disembarkation of non-SA crew and passengers. The only flights that will remain will be domestic service between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
  • March 22: Emirates announces cancellation of all passenger flights from March 25 .. but .. 
  • March 22: Turkish Airlines to suspend most of its flights – leaving just a handful of flights to New York, Washington, Addis Ababa, Moscow & Hong Kong (via AlexinAir).
  • March 22: Kenya Airways suspends all international flights. Cargo flights remain, as will passenger services to Mombasa and Kisumu. 

Corporate Restructuring’s: 

  • March 13: Trading was suspended at the Nairobi Securities Exchange. This came following news of the discovery of the first coronavirus case in Kenya and the main share index dropped by over 5%. Past instances when circuit-et breakers have been tripped include in the period of post-election violence in 2008, and in September 2017, on the day that Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified the results of the August 8 presidential election. 
  • March 13: Kenya’s insurance regulator, IRA, communicates that insurance companies will continue to provide their services to policy holders affected or infected with the virus .. but insurance companies say their re-insurers do not cover pandemics such as Coronavirus. 
  • March 16: Ethiopian Airlines restructuring plans include scaling up cost-saving programmes and asking service providers for temporary relief, discounts and waivers. They have also started to renegotiate all contracts, including aircraft leases as well as scaling down offices and reducing staff.
  • March 16: Java adjusts seating and promotes delivery as do other restaurants. But many other restaurants closed. 
  • March 18: It was revealed that The Standard Group plans to lay off 170 workers. 
  • March 18: Churches to restrict attendance numbers.
  • March 18: The African Development Bank cancels all travels and requires staff to work from home. The Bank’s Board of Directors is reviewing the configuration and design of the Bank’s statutory Annual Meetings originally scheduled for May 26-29, 2020 in Abidjan
  • March 18: Kenyan listed companies and licensed investment schemes that were to host annual general meetings (AGM’s) in March, April and May 2020 have been asked to defer them to later dates.
  • March 20: Kenya Airways CEO sends a memo to staff following COVID-19 and writes that in the last 24 hours, nine countries in our Africa network, the UAE and India have announced travel restrictions. So far, we have reduced approximately 65% of our flights, and this is changing by the hour. He announces that instead of layoffs they will ask staff to take salary reduction and paid & unpaid leave. The leadership team and he will take 75% and 80% respectively, while that for other staff will be 25% or 50% depending on the pay grade.
  • To facilitate supermarket shopping home deliveries, Tuskys has partnered with Sendy and Naivas has partnered with Glovo.

Government Adjustments 

  • March 16: The Ministry of Lands closes all land registries for 28 days from March 17. 
  • March 16: Kenya’s Sports & Culture Ministry closes all museums, archives, stadiums, public libraries, and cinemas for 30 days.
  • March 18: Kenya’s National Assembly and Senate both go on a month-long recess. 
  • March 18: Kenyan courts embraced digital filings and rulings of cases. 
  • March 19: Public health campaign to stop the spread is launched. 

Uplifting News

  • March 21: A thread to help those losing jobs their jobs this week and to help match their skills with part-time or remote-work opportunities. 
  • March 22: The first shipment of medical relief equipment offered by the Jack Ma Foundation arrives in Africa for distribution to different countries. The total will be 500,000 test kits and one million masks had been pledged on March 13.

Inside Kenya’s BBI (Building Bridges Initiative) Report.

Last week saw the release of a report from the Presidential Taskforce on the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), that was the result of a March 2018 ‘handshake’ between President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who had led different parties into the 2017 Kenya general elections.

The document is sub-titled Building Bridges to a United Kenya: from a nation of blood ties to a nation of ideals and its authors claim to have incorporated the views of about 7,000 Kenyans from all 47 counties.

One of the summarized findings was that elections are too divisive – and the country’s economy gets three good years that are interrupted by two-year blocks of intense electioneering campaigns.

Anyway, on to an alphabetical look at some of the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) Report clauses.

Anti-Money Laundering: A bank involved in corrupt transactions should be made to repay all the money laundered through it, with interest.

Audits: Devolve the Office of the Auditor-General to the counties. Also, projects initiated in the final year of an electoral cycle should receive extra scrutiny from the Controller of Budget and all oversight authorities.

Capitalism: We have confused value extraction with capitalism (and) we as a people must build an economy that is dominated by value creation and not value extraction.

CCTV: Link private CCTV of hotels, shopping centres, and other highly trafficked sites to the National Police Service to deter terrorism and crime.

Cyclists: Every new road in an urban area should be legally required to also have a sidewalk for pedestrians and specified lanes for cyclists, with clear signage.

Doing Business Rankings (not the World Bank ones): Develop and launch a measure of ease of doing business for small Kenyan businesses and not just foreign investors. This should be a comparative assessment published annually by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics and broken down by counties, cities, and towns.

(Fighting) Corruption: One of the summarized findings was a need to reverse the Ndegwa Commission and ban all public officers from doing business with the government. Another is that no procurement officer should be at a post for more than two years.

e-Government: Make Kenya a 100% e-services nation by digitizing all government services, processes, payment systems, and record-keeping. This should include the ability to offer Kenyans digital identities, e-health records and Kenyans should be able to vote digitally.

(Attitude to) Free Money: When money is known as ‘pesa ya serikali’ (Government money), it is something to plunder not respect; indeed, people who try to save public money are dismissed and even rebuked.

(Use of) Government Services: dubbed “skin in the game of leadership” – all ministers and county executives and leaders should use the services that they manage on behalf of all Kenyans. E.g. the children of the education minister should attend public schools and the health minister should use public health facilities.

History (of Kenya): President Uhuru Kenyatta should commission an official accurate History of Kenya, going back 1,000 years, whose production will be led by an Office of the Historian resident in the National Archives.

(Digitization of) Land Records: Complete the digitization of land ownership and give the public access to the database. Also, map and publicize government-owned land open for commercial leasing under simple and enforceable terms.

Loan Apps: Properly regulate loan apps which are driving up indebtedness of poor Kenyans to destructive effect with their shylock-level interest rates and borrowing from multiple platforms.

Marginalization: The marginalized should not marginalize others – strong evidence was presented that some communities that complained about marginalization at the national level were themselves guilty of marginalizing minorities in their respective counties.

Media: Kenya needs media that uplifts through investing in quality local content (and) should build programming around Kenyan histories and showing what is exceptional.

Mining: Concessional agreements, policies and regulations in mining and oil should be made public in an accessible manner, including clear accounting for the public participation and environmental impact assessments.

New bodies proposed in the BBI Report:
• A Health Service Commission to look at the human resourcing in the counties.
• A unified and assertive food safety and regulatory body to ensure Kenyan food becomes safe.
• Nairobi be accorded a special status as a capital city that allows the National Government to maintain it as a capital city and as a diplomatic hub.
• A commission to address current boundary conflicts until they are solved.
• (Compel the) Private sector to form a national, non-profit foundation, chaired by the President, that provides mentoring and support to aspiring business owners aged 18–35. It should match the young entrepreneurs with a business development advisor and a nationwide network of volunteer mentors.
• A Government-run national lottery to replace the private betting industry (which is leading to hopelessness and greater poverty)
• A Sovereign Fund that allows for savings in case of emergencies or extraordinary circumstances.
• An Office of the Public Participation Rapporteur mandated to conduct all public participation on behalf of governmental entities at the national and devolved units.
• A Prime Minister, appointed by the President, from the majority party in Parliament.
• A Department of Happiness, Wellness, and Mental Health in the Ministry of Health.
• Baraza la Washauri: The President should benefit from the private advice of eminent, experienced, and honourable citizens serving as a Council of Advisors on a non-salaried basis.

NHIF: The National Hospital Insurance Fund administrative costs should be cut down to 5%-10%. Currently, this is at about 18%.

Privatization: Expedite the privatization of Government shareholding in assets not delivering value to the public and undertake parastatal reforms.
The findings are further summarized to include “parastatals carrying out County functions should be either wound up or restructured.”

Revenue allocation: Public resources should follow people not land mass. Health, agriculture, and service delivery are also most important than land mass.

Taxation: Have a “flat tax” for every income category above a living wage/income of Kshs 30,000 (~$300) – to reduce tax fraud, encourage compliance, and cut down on corruption in the assessment of taxes.

Tax-cuts:
• Minimize taxation of new and small businesses by giving them a tax holiday of at least seven years as a support to youth entrepreneurship and job creation.
• Cut taxes in relation to Auditor-General audits .. money should remain in Kenyans’ pockets until there is more accountability and governance on its use at the National and County levels
• Also no double taxation and double regulation at the National and County level.

Wealth Declarations: These should be made public and all senior leaders should publish written statements on how they acquired wealth over Kshs 50 million (~$500,000) and have this available on government websites, along with details of shareholdings, partnerships, directorships etc.

(Reward) Whistleblowers: Offer a 5% share of proceeds recovered from anti-corruption prosecutions or actions to the whistleblower whose information is necessary to the success of the asset seizure or successful prosecution.

White-elephants: To stop the abandonment of incomplete projects with each change of administration, the Treasury should not release monies to the new Governor before obtaining a list of incomplete projects and a plan for their completion.

Way forward: In the BBI report, there is no mention about a public referendum, the TJRC report, and very little about land and historical injustices. It also does not address much on legislative issues such as the two-thirds gender rule, and disputes between the Senate and the National Assembly. Parliament breaks for a two-month Christmas holiday this week, during which the BBI debate is sure to be a topic of much discussion up to February 2020 and beyond.

Banking Week: Interest caps go and Stawi starts

Interest-Caps: This week saw the end of the era of capping of interest rates, that was seen as a populist three-year experiment to reign in large banking-sector profits.

The Government had tried to repeal this, without success, several times over the last few years, and bankers and the IMF have also been vocal about the unintended, and detrimental effects of the caps, on the economy.

Parliament stuck to its guns to the last minute, making farcical attempts to keep the caps in place. But as only 161 MP’s were present to vote, they could not proceed to over-ride the President, as they needed 2/3 of Parliament to be present. While some lawmakers have in the past argued that this high constitutional threshold (of requiring a vote of 233 MP’s) gives the President power to make laws, this has been upheld by the Courts.

The caps did not stop the “super profits” at large banks, but they did weaken smaller banks by limiting their interest-income growth. In the interest capped era, large banks found shifted their lending lend to a national government with an insatiable borrowing appetite, as opposed to small businesses, and when these credit lines shut off, small banks were hit with a rise of non-performing loans.

Stawi: This week also saw the formal launch of Stawi after a pilot phase in which that 80,000 had signed up for this banking industry response to the mushrooming of unregulated loan apps.

Stawi aims to promote savings and lending for small businesses. It is a bank account, opened and operated on phone, and owners can move money through M-pesa (for a flat fee of Kshs 42) and Pesalink. Stawi is hosted by the Commercial Bank of Africa, and, like with its M-shwari product, banking services are only rendered on the app, not at branches.

Users of Stawi have to be registered and in business for six months. New users are encouraged to make Stawi their primary account and to channel transactions through it to get a borrowing limit.

On downloading the app, one is assigned a loan limit based on credit their credit history. Stawi offers unsecured loans of between (~$292) KSh30,000 to (~$2,432) KSh250,000 that can be repaid between one to twelve months at rates of 9% per year.


Kenya Political Party Financing in 2019

What’s to be learnt about the state of political party finance in Kenya? Some parties have published their unofficial financial results for the year 2019.

Jubilee: The ruling party has income of  Kshs 339 million, that includes 240 million from the Political Parties Fund (PPF) and 98 million from members. They spent 80 million on rent, down from 90 million, 173M on general  expenses and 81 million on secretariat staff and executives.  They have 16 million of property

ODM: The main opposition party received Kshs 112 million from the Political Parties Fund, same as last year, and donations of 78M. They have also booked an astronomical accrued amount from the government of Kshs 6.47 billion. They spent 170 million on administrative expenses, 19M on campaigns, 11M on party policy, 10M on conferences, 3M on branch coordination and just 712,000 on civic education. The amount they are claiming for the government is also listed as a current asset and bumps up their balance sheet from 119 million last year, to 6.5 billion.

Other Parties: Meanwhile other parties have been silent on their finances, but are active in other areas. These include the former ruling party – Party of National Unity, which has changed its officials. New parties have been formed this year  include  Transformation National Alliance Party of Kenya (TNAP) with “money bills” as its party symbol, the Democratic Action Party Kenya and the National Ordinary People Empowerment Union (NOPEU).

Summary of results:

1. Party coalitions are dead:  The party coalitions put together for elections appear to have fallen apart. ODM has stopped making payments to its coalition partners and no longer provides for them as they did in their earlier accounts.

2 Expensive secretariats: The amount at Jubilee of 81M  is down from 141M last year and which was a sharp rise from 28M in the previous year. That may coincide with hiring for the 2017 election period. Usually, party activities go into a lull after elections, until the next election cycle. In Kenya, this is set for 2022 unless another constitutional referendum is engineered to happen before that by political leaders.  At ODM, their property assets went up from 8M to 185M. in September 2019 they relocated their headquarters from Orange house to Chungwa House ay Loiyangalani  Drive in Lavington.

Old Pic from the State House FB page

3. Parties IPO: ODM has sued the government for not paying it the amount of Kshs 6.4 billion which it says dates back to when parliament came up with the  political parties act.   

But the National Treasury has been saying it cannot afford  to fund the political parties to the tune of 0.3% of the budget as parliamentarians had their parties, without impeding their constitutional requirement  to also fund the county governments.  Treasury has been allocating Kshs 300 million instead of 3.6 billion a year to the Political Parties Fund.

4. If that payment ever materializes, ODM’s coalition partners, have stated that they will stake a claim for a slice of that windfall.