Sakaja 'overburdens' Nairobians with new taxes – Sifuna

The Finance Bill 2023 bill is being considered by the county assembly

In Summary

• City Senator Sifuna says new taxes are punitive, should be scrapped.

• He said Sakaja had to “pull up his socks on city cleanliness, water supply and completion of projects”.

Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna addresseses the crowd during the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations at City Stadium in Nairobi on June 1, 2023.
Nairobi Senator Edwin Sifuna addresseses the crowd during the 60th Madaraka Day celebrations at City Stadium in Nairobi on June 1, 2023.
Image: FILE

The slew of new taxes proposed by Nairobi Governor Johnson Sakaja has elicited diverse, mostly negative reactions, and city Senator Edwin Sifuna has condemned them as punitive and fantasy ambitions.

The ODM secretary general told the Star in an interview Sakaja is wrong in “overburdening Nairobians with new taxes just like his buddies in the national government, yet the public’s stream of income has continued to dwindle”.

“What Sakaja is doing is unacceptable. There is no rationale in overburdening the city dwellers with new taxes considering they are barely making it under the national government’s unforgiving tax regimes,” Sifuna said.

The Bill is being considered by the county assembly.

The Sakaja administration has proposed in its Finance Bill 2023 to increase fees and penalties on the city's transport system, including parking zones, drop-off and pick-up points. It also seeks to increase the fees for renting market stalls, food courts, shops and public places.

Parking fees will increase mainly in Zone I, which includes the CBD, Kijabe Street, Upper Hill Community, Ngara, Highridge, Industrial area, Gigiri, Kilimani, Yaya Centre, Milimani, Hurlingham, Lavington, Karen, Eastleigh, Muthaiga, Gikomba and Nairobi West.

Parking for sedans in this zone would be Sh300 daily, up from Sh200; vans or pickups would pay Sh500, up from Sh200; lorries and minibus weighing as much as five tonnes will increase from Sh1,000 to Sh2,000, and for lorries heavier than tons fees will increase from Sh1,000 to Sh3,000.

Non-PSV buses’ fees will remain at Sh1,000, and fees for trailers would rise from Sh3,000 to Sh3,500. Monthly parking fees for non-digital taxis would start at Sh3,000.

In Zone II areas, daily parking charges for sedans would drop from Sh200 to Sh100, vans/pickups also would pay Sh150, down from Sh200, and non-PSV buses will pay Sh500, down from Sh1,000.

Zone II area includes on-street parking at commercial centres and any county market parking not included in Zone I.

For markets, the bill proposes traders in the busy City Market and those in large stalls are to pay Sh16,250, up from Sh12,500. Those training on balconies would pay Sh5,850, up from Sh4,500, office spaces will pay Sh6,500, up from Sh5,000, and shops will pay Sh39,000, up from Sh30,0000.

But firebrand Senator Sifuna said the new tax proposals are unnecessary and that City Hall was responding to self-imposed pressure to increase own-source revenue.

“City Hall is having this unnecessary pressure of increasing own-source revenue without acknowledging that the level of pressure it is putting upon the residents of this city is becoming unbearable if you consider the tax rises by the national government. At some point we have to say ‘no,’ ” he said.

To achieve the own-source revenue target, he said, the governor should tighten loopholes that leak resources and cut on wastage to consolidate the needed funds he.

“Because of the economic situation we should not be adding more taxes to Kenyans whether at county or national level. Even the pressure he [Sakaja] is feeling for collection of own-source revenue, he supposed to tighten loopholes here and there."

"We supported him when he said he will be digitising all revenue streams. He should tell us how that has worked before increasing these levies and taxation,” he said.

Sifuna, while acknowledging that the Sakaja City Hall is fairly consultative, said he will sustain his oversight work in the county alongside the county assembly to ensure the city dwellers are not oppressed.

The senator’s assessment suggests that the Nairobi power trifectas – the executive, assembly and his office – were largely working together but the water only got muddied by the taxation proposal by City Hall.

He said the assembly has been up to task in holding the feet of the city executive to the fire and that he does most of his oversight input in the committees of the Senate.

“The county assembly has been proactive. The speaker is an amiable person who is easy to relate with, and together with Majority leader Peter Imwatok, the residents have been well served.”

He said his approach in working with the assembly is to "let everybody do their work unless there is a specific matter that needs my attention as a senator”.

"Recently, I called the majority leader regarding a memo he had proposed over registering the county sport associations. I was finding out if there is a budget line to support them."

Asked if he will seek to defeat the governor in the 2027 elections, given his misgivings, the senator won't rule it out, only saying that the election talks were premature.

“Right now, I’m content with doing the task the Nairobians gave me to be their senator at this moment and I’m working hard at it. Any talks about elections which are four years away is just irresponsible, plain and simple,” he said.

The ODM secretary general has been a vocal critic of the national government’s tax policies, making his stance against the Sakaja’s move an expected eventuality.

On his scorecard as a senator, he said his good work can be assessed in his committees of energy, transport and housing and the county public accounts committee.

“It is difficult for me to measure my own performance. It is for the people to measure, but as a representative of the people and as someone who does oversight on the various committees…  I think it is fair for me to let other people do their assessment rather than me blowing my own trumpet.”

Regarding the performance of the Sakaja administration, Sifuna says the governor has to pull up his socks in areas like “the cleanliness of the city, water and completion of some major projects that were promised”.

“If they do not improve, then they will get a lot of Nairobians disgruntled.”

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