Migori County Government has illegally been collecting revenue without a finance act in place for the financial year 2018/2019. This is against the law and any citizen could move to court to and have county stopped from levying any taxes until the crucial law is passed. But the County Government is not aware of any shortcomings of its late process.
The delay in the enactment of the Finance Act for Migori County violates section 132 and 133 of the Public Finance Management Act 2015. (Refer to the PFM Act 2015)
Public Participation about Actions that have been done
The County Assembly of Migori on March 14th, 2019 gave a notice in The Standard Newspaper on page 33 inviting Members of the public for public participation and hearings on the Finance Bill 2018 against the above provisions.
The notice by the Migori County Assembly is coming out six months past the deadline for approval with only three months left before the current financial year closes. It’s not clear what has necessitated the current situation.
At the National level, the Finance Bill 2018 was assented to by the President on 21st September 2018 nine days before the deadline following approval by the National Assembly.
Public has kept silent
Surprising, both the media and the civil society in Migori county have not reported on the illegality. No citizen has also moved to court to challenge the revenue being collected without the law having been enacted.
The county assembly which is mandated by law to oversight the operations of the County Executive has not pointed out nor interrogated this gross violation of the law.
County Assembly is satisfied
Migori Assembly Clerk Mr. Tom Onyango said the delay in the processing and approval of the Finance Bill 2018 was occasioned by the County Executive. He pointed out that the County Assembly had only received the crucial document few days ago and that is why they were prioritizing the passage of the same.
Mr. Onyango said he saw nothing wrong with the delay as long as it’s approved within the financial year.
“The delay is occasioned by the Executive. I however think that as long as its passed within the financial year, then there is nothing wrong,” he said.
CEC Finance ignorant about Law
Reached for comment, the County Executive Committee Member for Finance Mrs. Scholastica Abiero said the delay in the formulation of the Finance Bill was caused by challenges beyond her control. She was however unable to point out the exact challenges only saying she will get back to the RoGG Kenya team with more concrete answers.
According to the facebook page of the Migori County Assembly however, this year’s gross delay in the enactment of the Finance Act seems to be a routine in Migori. The county assembly’s final deliberations about the Finance Bill 2017 /2018 were announced on facebook on April 17, 2018, similarly late as this year.
Ms Abiero said she was not aware of a law that requires the Finance Bill be passed within 90 days after approval of the budget further adding she was not aware of any consequences that the delay may cause.
Illegal according to PFMA
The collection of revenue in the county without a law in place that sets the charges is illegal. The Public Finance Management Act sets September 30, as the last day within which the Finance bill is supposed to have been approved at the Counties.
The Finance Act according to the law is supposed to be in place within 90 days after the budget is approved on June 30. (Refer to the budget cycle on RoGG Kenya)
The public meetings in Migori according the newspaper notice will run for 10 days from March 21st to March 30th before a final report is written by the committee for consideration by the county county. In essence, the process can run up to towards the end of April before the Finance Act is enacted, just two months before the end of the financial year.
Courts could halt Tax Collection
Failure to pass the crucial law on time makes all the collections in local revenue levied by the county illegal. It would only require a resident to move to court and all collections will be halted. Once the collections are declared illegal, citizens can move to court demanding a refund and punishment for those who had collected the money.
On the other hand, the county will not be able to deliver on the projects it would have lined up in the budget. Part of the money that counties rely on to fund projects come from own revenue collection.
Counties charge varied amounts for various services and facilities. Bungoma County Government will for instance charge you Sh 60, 000 per year if you operate a hotel with 40 beds, Sh 50, 000 if you operate a restaurant with a sitting capacity of over 70 customers. If you are a trader it will cost you Sh 200 every day for your goods to be allowed to the market stalls. If you operate a matatu or taxi, it will cost you sh2 00 for every trip you make before being allowed to the bus park again. To hire a ground for a political rally you pay Sh 50, 000 to the County Government before being allowed. All this is at risk without a Finance Act.
Budget Deficit lingering
The county will also be unable to meet its own revenue targets as set out in the Appropriations Act leading to a deficit in funding.
The Finance Act gives the projections on the revenue to be collected and sets the charges for the revenue streams. The charges are revised annually because of the changing economic times with new charges introduced and some old charges scrapped away at times.
It’s the lawmakers at both the national level and county level who have the final say on how much the national county and counties should charge for licenses, services and other all other levies.
The answers by the two Senior County officials will perhaps be an eye opener to the law enforcers and citizens. It remains to be seen what action if any will be taken on those responsible for the delay.
No Documents on the County Assembly Website
In addition, citizens of Migori County cannot check on what has or has not been done in the their County Assembly without actually visiting its Clerk’s office. The Migori County Assembly website lies empty in its documents section, while older news and a few pictures of the Honorables sitting in it are available. The website mentions the Access to Information Act, though – which is being violated by the County, it seems.
BY ERICK NAKITARE