Kenyans have taken to social media to express their opposition to the plan by the government to deduct part of workers’ salaries to fund its housing project.
Housing is one of the Jubilee administration's Big Four agenda.
In a newspaper advertisement on Tuesday, the Housing ministry and the Kenya Revenue Authority announced that the housing fund levy “has come into effect”, meaning that every employed Kenyan must remit 1.5 percent of his or her basic salary to the National Housing Development Fund.
The deduction became law following the enactment of the Finance Act, 2018 that following the budget statement presented to Parliament by Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich.
But in reaction, Kenyans took offence with Article 25 of the Act which states that anyone who misappropriates the housing fund will be liable to imprisonment for two years or be made to pay a fine not exceeding Sh10,000 or both.
Kenyans observed that this provision, which they feel does not provide appropriate enough punishment and therefore makes the housing project suspect.
“You want us to trust you with billions when you have planned to fine yourself a paltry 100USD (Sh10,000). Kenyans are resilient but when such stuff slips through all the legal minds, then I have every reason to refuse to board,” Mohammed Hersi wrote on Twitter.
Many poked holes into the government’s ambitious plan to provide low-cost housing, saying they will not accept the idea.
“The government has no business building houses. They should provide an environment where investors can build affordable housing,” Chepkut William wrote on Twitter.
In the plan, employers are also required to send a figure matching the employees’ deductions to the Housing fund.
“We contributed towards the purchase of primary school laptops but none were delivered. We paid for the construction of many stadia but none were constructed. Whose houses are we contributing for under the #HousingFundLevy? Termites?” wrote Nairobi lawyer Nelson Havi.
And in Kisumu, teachers have also rejected the proposed housing levy.
Kenya Union of Post-Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) Kisumu branch Executive Secretary Zablon Awange said the proposed deduction of 1.5 percent of their basic salaries is illegal.
“It is not only illegal but also unconstitutional and inappropriate levy that teachers cannot afford bearing in mind most teachers’ pay slips have less than Sh10,000 net salaries,” Mr Awange said.
He said the teaching fraternity will resist “this new attempt to fleece teachers under the guise of affordable housing”.
“Teachers have built better houses in locations of their choices without the government’s assistance. So why now?” he posed.
The Teachers Service Commission’s (TSC) policies such as delocalisation and other economic factors such as dynamic mobility of labour coupled with constant job transfers, he noted, will render the scheme “yet another jubilee white elephant”.
“We rejected it in Kisumu Kuppet AGM as teachers and later at the national annual delegates conference hence the government cannot force us into the so-called affordable housing,” added Mr Awange.
He went on: “Are teachers currently living on trees and in caves to warrant the government’s intervention? Let the government get its priories right. On housing, it is a misplaced priority.”