Senate minority leader Stewart Madzayo has moved to court challenging the Sh50 convenience fee charged to Kenyans for using the eCitizen platform, arguing that the charge is illegal.
The Kilifi senator said in the petition it was unfair and unconstitutional to burden taxpayers with the convenience fee, which is channelled to a third party, Pesaflow Ltd whose role and ownership remain unknown.
Mr Madzayo argued that the convenience fee is in essence an illegal tax imposed on all persons seeking government services, yet the money seems to be flowing to a private entity, as evidenced by the issuance of two separate invoices and two separate receipts.
The legislator said any payments made through the eCitizen.go.ke platform are subjected to a Sh50 ‘convenience fee’ and for all payments made through the platform, two invoices are issued.
He said an invoice is issued on the government agency’s letterhead, indicating the service fee being paid for and a second invoice is on Pesaflow’s letterhead which is charged at a cost of Sh50.
Mr Madzayo said the fee is charged at a flat rate for all transactions, including transactions where the service fee paid to the government is Sh50, making the user pay the convenience fee at a rate of 100 percent of the service fee.
“Clearly, the levying of this convenience fee is unconscionable and oppressive to the petitioner, citizens, and all persons as consumers of government services,” he said, adding that just as with the convenience fee itself, the formula used to arrive at the rate remains shrouded in mystery, ambiguity, and obscurity.
Mr Madzayo is seeking an order compelling Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) and Equity Bank to publish details of the amounts paid to Pesaflow Ltd since the government commenced the use of the eCitizen.go.ke platform.
He also wants Pesaflow Ltd to surrender all the monies it has collected as ‘convenience fee’ to the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA).
According to Mr Madzayo, the fee paid to Pesaflow is shrouded in mystery, opacity, and it is unknown in law as there is no legal basis for charging it especially given that he and all persons as consumers of government services already make payment for the services sought from the government.
“It is not known what exactly the impugned convenience fee caters for given that the 1st Respondent (Pesaflow) does not appear anywhere in the two gazette notices and in any event, eCitizen.go.ke is a wholly owned domain and portal of the Government of Kenya,” he said.
Mr Madzayo argued that in essence, the user pays thrice for the same service, that is, the substantive fees for the service, which is paid to the government, the mysterious convenience fee paid to Pesaflow and whatever transaction costs that are levied by Safaricom through the MPesa service.
The Kilifi senator said instead of charging a nominal administrative fee that would be a percentage of the payment made, Pesaflow, which is not mentioned in the gazette notice, has been charging the ‘convenience fee’ regardless of the payment made.