CAPACITY BUILDING

The role of Kesra in tax administration in Kenya and beyond

KESRA is a school of the Kenya Revenue Authority , which trains individuals on financial and tax matters

In Summary
  • Covid-19 saw KESRA's e-academy become bigger than the physical institutions as more learning went online.
  • The school has trained a lot of entrepreneurs through initiatives with firms such as KEPSA, to be able to plan their taxes.
Kenya School of Revenue Administration Head Commissioner Fred Mugambi during an Interview at KRA offices Times Tower on July 6, 2021
Kenya School of Revenue Administration Head Commissioner Fred Mugambi during an Interview at KRA offices Times Tower on July 6, 2021
Image: CHARLENE MALWA

The Kenya School of Revenue Administration (Kesra) centre along Waiyaki Way in Nairobi is not glittering as other iconic structures around it.

However, the school has churned out hundreds of tax experts sitting at the highest bodies of tax corporations in the world. It is also playing a silent role in pushing for revenue growth and integrity in the country.

The Star's Susan Nyawira recently had a chat with Kesra commissioner Fred Mugambi who revealed how the school assists KRA achieve its tax collection mandate.

What is Kesra and what do you do?

Kesra is a school of the Kenya Revenue Authority, which trains individuals on financial and tax matters. It hosts the OECD Africa Academy for Tax and Financial Crime Investigation.

We have the main campus in Nairobi, another in Mombasa and an e-academy.

The Covid-19 pandemic fast tracked digitalization, is Kesra/KRA adopting new business models in order to achieve its mandate?

Covid-19 sent organizations back to the drawing board in terms of how they deliver their mandate, new drivers for efficiency, effectiveness. We, therefore, went back to the board to know how we can train more staff even with the pandemic, we had to ramp up our academy and even doubled the number of staff we trained from 3000 in 2019 to 5000 in 2020.

This is because it was now easier to train from border to border considering we have staff in far areas such as Malaba, Busia, Turkana.

Covid-19 saw our e-academy become bigger than the physical institutions as more learning went online.

The main lesson we drew from Covid-19 is that technology is the future and you don't have to bring people into physical locations to achieve things. You actually spend less time and it's also cost-effective.

Is Kesra a successful business school?

We as a school occupy a special niche, they're not many schools that offer everything we offer. For instance, we are the only school that offers training in customs across the region. Our tax training is also skill-based and not purely academic. Our four areas of focus are tax, customs, fiscal policy and management and logistics.

The significance of tax administration on entrepreneurship?

You cannot divorce tax from entrepreneurship, one of the big preoccupations of a business is to ensure their books of accounts are kept well well by making their taxes are properly paid so that they don't bring an issue in the future.

We have trained a lot of entrepreneurs through initiatives with firms such as Kepsa, to be able to plan their taxes and also so that they are able to know the benefits they can get for being tax compliant.

Kesra also does tax advisories for small businesses, we also assist in informing people on overpayment and tax deductions.

What the future looks for Kesra in terms of innovation and development?

Consultancy and research is our key area of focus. We want to do more in the areas of research, trade facilitation and train more people as we elevate for the future.

We also want to get into new technologies such as blockchain, data analytics, robotics, the use of drones among others.

Kesra has also developed a mobile app and a chatbot to be launched soon, these will allow seamless access to our services and ease communication.

In emerging markets such as Kenya, tax collection is neither automated nor centralized. Collection rates are often low, and there is little awareness of how much is truly owed, do you believe Kesra as a tax school has helped address this

Automation is big for us here at KRA, at our school we promote the use of iTax, KRA's online platform. As a school, we focus on capacity building for staff to better serve citizens.

We ensure all staff are well equipped with the knowledge to be able to achieve their mandate of serving Kenyans.

The laws affecting taxation also change regularly therefore as Kesra we also adopt this in our training to ensure the staff are up to date.

What role does Kesra play in communicating the need to pay taxes by the mwananchi(citizens)

Our role is more of training, therefore we empower our staff in communicating to be able to put out information there to every citizen to pay taxes.

Mugambi joined KRA in 2016 as a deputy commissioner in charge of academics at Kesra, then he was promoted to a commissioner, he has been the commissioner for two years.