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Governor Awiti cracks the whip on scrupulous tax agents

Friday November 22 2019

Cyprian Awiti

Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti when he appeared before the Senate Committee on County Public Accounts and Investments on November 14, 2019 to respond to audit queries of his county expenditures. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

GEORGE ODIWUOR
By GEORGE ODIWUOR
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Homa Bay Governor Cyprian Awiti has sacked more than 4,000 revenue commission agents in the county in a bid to curb loss of funds.

The governor used his executive powers to dismiss all the tax collectors, who he claimed could not be held accountable for remitting tax to the county government.

The county government had hired casuals, who were being paid on a commission of 10 percent based on what they collect. They are accused of failing to remit the collected funds.

AUDIT QUERIES

Those affected include agents who collect money in markets and bus stops.

The governor said he was forced to make the changes because he had difficulties answering some audit queries before the Senate last week.

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“I found it hard answering some questions when I was being grilled by the Senate. I am making these changes so that next time when I appear before the Senate, I will have fewer questions to answer,” the governor told residents.

According to the governor, there lacks a clear structure of operation to guide the tax collection agents, which gives them a leeway to pocket the money they collect.

He said the county government has been unable to keep track of its collection at any given time as a result.

REDUCED REVENUE

Last week, the Senate Public Accounts and Investment Committee (PAIC) found out that revenue collection in Homa Bay County had dropped to Sh192 million in 2015-2016 from Sh232 million in the 2014-2015 financial year.

It reduced further to Sh144 million in 2016-2017 financial year before dropping further to Sh101 million in the last financial year.

The senate committee led by Senator Moses Kajwang’ established that funds collected by revenue commission agents was being spent at the source rather than being deposited at the bank.

According to the Senate PAIC, some of the funds are being used to pay bills immediately after collection.

Homa Bay County government has tried implementing modern systems of revenue collection, including automation using point of sale machines and digitisation using mobile phone cash transfer system, but they have all failed to raise the figures.

Mr Awiti has hinted big changes in revenue collection by coming up with new systems to prevent loss of funds.

He issued a directive to his executive members to nominate 20 people from their departments to temporarily act as revenue collectors.

“Each executive member is hereby directed to identify 10 people who are productive in the office. The selected people will be sent to the filed to collect revenue,” he ordered.

If the new directive is used, the county will have 200 people working as revenue collectors.

They will then be supported by a team of youths who are yet to be identified, who will be deployed to inspect their activities.

NEW BILL

Mr Awiti said the county assembly had passed the County Inspectorate Bill .

“The bill will create job opportunities for the youths. They will be in charge of supervising how revenue is collected,” he said when he flagged off two fire engines and an ambulance that was donated to the county government by the Cambria County Council in the United Kingdom.

Mr Awiti was accompanied by his deputy Hamilton Orata, county secretary Isaiah Ogwe, acting speaker Evance Marieba and county executive members.

The governor said the youths will fully join in revenue collection after four months of being the field.