Kenya’s President William Ruto has accused the tax collection agency’s staff of cutting government revenue by engaging in corruption, colluding with tax evaders and taking bribes.
Ruto, who was elected last august on a platform of helping the poor, has had a rough ride in the first months of his term due to growing government debt repayments, revenue collection shortfalls and persistently high prices of basic commodities.
Public service employees have complained of salary delays in recent months while local authorities have threatened to shut down their operations to protest against delayed cash disbursements from the national government.
“Collusion, wanton bribe-taking and general corruption continue to pervade operations of KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority),” Ruto told KRA’s management and board members at an event beamed live on his social media pages.
The government’s efforts to boost tax collection were being hampered by unscrupulous staff at the revenue authority who spent their time helping corrupt taxpayers to evade paying, he said.
The Kenya Revenue Authority declined to comment.
Kenyan authorities have been fighting corruption and the tax collection agency has come under scrutiny. In May 2019, 75 revenue staff were arrested on suspicion of abetting tax evasion and bribery.
Ruto also accused KRA staff of resisting and sabotaging attempts to digitise revenue collection in the past, to prevent the government from sealing loopholes.
“I have to be candid because I have a job to do,” the president said.
The Kenya Revenue Authority has not issued its latest tax collection figures but local media outlets said it collected 1.57 trillion shillings ($11.50 billion) in the 10 months to the end of April, meaning it has just two months to meet the government’s target of 2.1 trillion by the end of June.
In terms of tax collected as a proportion of annual economic output, Kenya has been under performing other nations like South Africa, Ruto said.