Parliament will have the power to vet, approve or reject the next Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) Commissioner-General if MPs pass a bill introduced into the house by DP William Ruto’s ally Majority Leader Aden Duale.
Currently the KRA Commisioner General is appointed by the Cabinet Secretary at Treasury upon the recommendation of the KRA Board. The CS consults with State House on this appointment which is one of the most strategic of the state institutions in the country.
The proposed changes are contained in the Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill, 2018, which was introduced in Parliament by Garissa MP Aden Duale last Tuesday.
The development exposes the raging proxy war that is increasingly manifesting itself within the ruling coalition between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto.
Last month the influential Indian Ocean Newsletter reported that Kenyatta and Ruto were playing ping-pong with the retirement of John Njiraini. While Kenyatta is willing to extend Njiraini’s contract beyond mandatory retirement, Ruto wants Njiraini to proceed to terminal leave so he can have one of his allies appointed to the powerful position.
By attempting to shift powers to appoint KRA boss from State House to Parliament where he hopes to control majority MPs, Ruto’s proxy action amounts to shadow-boxing with the President and is indicative of his eagerness to control strategic institutions ahead of the 2022 electoral.
Should the bill succeed, analysts say it would mark the second clear sign of Uhuru’s lame-duck presidency, the first being the extended delay in reconstitution of cabinet.
Njiraini controversially joined the Friends of Jubilee Foundation (FJF) which raised billions of shillings for President Uhuru Kenyatta re-election campaigns.
The KRA boss was enlisted as a board member of the foundation as well as a signatory to FJF’s bank accounts which is contrary to provisions of Kenya’s Public Officers Ethics Act and the Public Officer and Integrity act which prohibit public servants engaging in partisan politics.
Duale’s bill, largely seen as Ruto’s handiwork, comes at a time when succession at the KRA is looming following the expiry of the term of the current commissioner- general John Njiraini in March.
The KRA board is yet to officially launch the search for Mr Njiraini’s replacement two months after he attained the 60 years retirement age for civil servants.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, then Finance minister, appointed Njiraini as KRA commissioner-general in March 2012.
Njiraini’s second term as chief tax collector was to end on March 3 but the Employment and Labour Relations Court last month allowed him to remain in office as activist Okiya Omtatah pushed on with a case seeking his removal on account of age. Omtatah is reportedly working closely with brokers who favour DP Ruto.
Omtatah had moved to court seeking to compel the KRA board and Treasury secretary Henry Rotich to appoint an acting commissioner-general and commence recruitment of a substantive office holder. Omtatah’s suit had the blessings of DP Ruto.
Njiraini has repeatedly stated that he has no intention of asking for an extension of his term although privately large tax payers in the private sector have petitioned President Kenyatta to extend his tenure.