Whereas empowering the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to go after wealthy tax evaders is a welcome move as both the Treasury and the National Assembly have signalled, it also places a huge responsibility on the tax agency to first clean its house if the injection of Sh2 billion to hire detectives is to have a significant impact.
First, KRA must complete the lifestyle audit of its employees and make the findings public as a sign that it is serious about eliminating collusion between its officers and tax dodgers.
Without a doubt, rogue tax officers are in part to blame for the less than satisfactory performance of the agency over the years, and the result of this has been that honest tax payers have had to carry a disproportionately larger share of the tax burden.
This is a critical issue that KRA must address so as not to disillusion those who are already in the tax bracket and are diligent at paying their taxes.
Once KRA has put its house in order, it must then demonstrate that the 1,000 new employees it hires to go for the tax evaders are themselves people of integrity and taxpayers as well. It must come up with a code of conduct that ensures its new hires, as well as the old, uphold high levels of integrity and patriotism.
If does not, it will only be throwing more people into a battle that can only be won or lost on the dedication of the people picked for the job.
The hiring must be transparent and eschew the pitfall of putting in place people who pay their way into the team or who are hired on the strength of their political connections.
Once the team gets down to work, it must understand that its job is to collect the taxes due – estimated at Sh50 billion. They must understand unequivocally, that their job is not to harass business owners and wealthy individuals without justification. The aim is to collect tax, not close down businesses.
Finally, their targets must be measurable and an incentive system designed to both reward success and sanction poor performance. Only in this way with KRA and the public get value for money.