Lands ministry faulted over NCBA tax waiver information

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NCBA headquarters in Upper Hill in Nairobi. FILE PHOTO | EVANS HABIL | NMG

The High Court has faulted the Ministry of Lands over its failure to provide information relating to the merger of NIC and Commercial Bank of Africa and why the former NCBA constituents were exempted from paying millions of shillings worth of stamp duty.

Justice Lawrence Mugambi ruled that the ministry and the Attorney General violated the Constitution and the relevant statutory provisions by withholding the information as sought by Okiya Omtatah through a letter on October 1, 2020.

Mr Omtatah, now Busia senator, had asked the government to give him a copy of the recommendations that it forwarded to then-Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, recommending the two banks be exempted from paying stamp duty.

In a gazette notice on June 26, 2019, Mr Rotich stated that on the recommendation of the Cabinet Secretary for Lands and Physical Planning, the instruments executed in respect of the transactions relating to the merger of NIC Group PLC and Commercial Bank of Africa shall be exempt from the provisions of the Act.

Stamp duty is a tax charged on several transactions such as transfer stock, land and houses and ranges from one percent to four per cent of the property value.

“The respondents also contravened statutory provisions more so, Section 9 of the Access to Information Act which obligated the 1st Respondent to respond to the request by the Petitioner within 21 days,” the judge said.

The judge pointed out that the denial of information as sought by Mr Omtatah was a blatant disregard of the law.

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