Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s administration has made a U-turn on its recent plan for higher taxes, averting a looming legal showdown with civil society groups who have sought court action.
Mr Sonko on Wednesday appeared to disown a legal notice published by Finance and Economic Planning Executive Charles Kerich that allowed City Hall to collect increased taxes introduced in this year’s Finance Bill.
According to the contentious legal notice, Nairobi residents were to start paying increased parking fees, new charges for garbage collection, fire certificates and inspection for cats and dogs effective July 1.
“I have not signed anything and I was not consulted on the same. We should be meeting before tabling any proposals affecting Nairobi people and as the governor there is no notice that can be gazetted without my knowledge. “There is no way you can bypass me and the assembly and propose sensitive issues touching on things that affect Wanjiku,” added Mr Sonko.
He was speaking on Wednesday during a meeting with the assembly’s Budget and Appropriations committee and members of the executive over the Finance Bill in Mombasa.
On September 6, 2013, the first assembly passed the Nairobi County Provisional Collection of Revenue Act enabling the executive to effect sections of a Finance bill without going through the complete process of enactment by the county assembly.
Under the Nairobi City County Provisional Collection of Revenue Act of 2013, City Hall can collect taxes under a provisional arrangement of up to six months.
The Nairobi County Citizen Assembly, a civil society group, has filed a case in the High Court seeking to block City Hall form collecting the new levies.
In the case which comes up for mention on August 27, the groups wants a declaration that the Nairobi City County Provisional Collection of Revenue Act 2013 is unconstitutional.
The group has also wants the court to declare that collection of taxes, fees, charges, levies and penalties as ordered by Mr is unconstitutional having failed the public participation test.
“Public participation must be observed in a comprehensive and substantive way when enacting finance Bills which is without question, one of the most important items of legislation in the County Assembly year,” the group says in its prayers. The Nairobi MCAs had similarly opposed the implementation of the taxes before debate and adoption, terming the move as illegal. The chair of the Budget and Appropriations committee Robert Mbatia said the Act the executive used had been challenged and declared unlawful.
The county legislators have until September, or 90 days from the day the Finance Bill 2019 was gazetted, to approve or amend the tax proposals.
Yesterday, Mr Sonko also ordered for the removal of “unrealistic charges that burden to the common mwananchi.”
Key among the levies he asked to be abolished fees charged for garbage collection in learning institutions and religious bodies, the Sh25 charged for arrival of a chicken into the city from upcountry and fire inspection certificate charges.
In the proposed Bill, religious bodies such as mosque, churches and temples were to be levied between Sh5, 000 and Sh10, 000 monthly depending on their size.
For learning institutions like primary secondary, and universities they were to pay between Sh3, 000 and Sh200, 000 depending on the number of students.
Mr Sonko, however, said that the Sh400 daily parking fee for motorists in the Central Business District (CBD), current charges for billboards, Sh50, 000 for cutting trees in the capital and Sh100, 000 charge for cattle from other counties rounded up loitering in the city will remain.
“Charges like parking fee in the city centre will have to increase to Sh400 because we want to decongest the city and by having the fees go up,” he said.