Public schools face difficult times following threats by suppliers to hold onto learning materials unless they pay in cash.
Booksellers confirmed Sunday that they had withdrawn credit facilities to public primary and secondary schools in protest against the introduction of Value Added Tax on learning materials.
Schools owe booksellers Sh2.7 billion for supplies delivered on credit in anticipation that the schools would pay after receiving funds from the government.
“Previously it would be easy for us to negotiate with the schools on how they were going to pay us for the supplies but for now none of our members is willing to tender for the supplies because of the tough taxation regulations which have pushed booksellers and publishers between the wall and a hard place,” said a bookseller in Nakuru.
Members of Kenya Booksellers and Stationers Association (KBSA) said they were opposed to the 16 per cent tax introduced last year and the regulations imposed on them to make VAT returns.
“The government is slowly killing the dream of Vision 2030 of having educated Kenyans by making learning very expensive when they removed the zero-rating on learning materials,” said Mr John Mbugua, a former KBSA national chairman.
He noted that more than 1,000 booksellers had resolved to deal with schools on a cash-on-delivery basis if they were to comply with Kenya Revenue Authority taxation requirements.
He claimed that the government was yet to release this year’s first tranche of funds for free primary education and free tuition for secondary schools “yet they will be requiring us to submit VAT returns for supplies that we have not been paid for by the public schools.”
Every year, publishers and booksellers and schools have engaged in a tug-of-war over supplies. Similar threats to withhold the materials were made last year, but the plan was abandoned when then Education permanent secretary James ole Kiyiapi released Sh5.3 billion to schools in the second week of the first term.
Parents too have had to dig deeper into their pockets after the cost of books was increased by between 10 and 14 per cent by publishers to cover production cost.
Sunday, most parents and guardians resorted to buying second-hand books due to the high prices in bookshops.
“We are concerned that the government is going to lose more revenue in terms of unremitted taxes by booksellers dealing in second-hand materials as well as a likelihood of increased incidents of sale of pirated materials,” said Mr Mbugua.
The booksellers accused the government of sacrificing children’s education through perennial delays and reduced funding to the free learning programme.
No longer adequate
“The current disbursement is no longer adequate due to the high cost of living and the recent price increase of exercise books and textbooks,” he argued.
The 10th Parliament endorsed that each pupil should get an annual allocation of Sh3,180, from Sh 1,060 while learners in secondary schools are entitled to Sh20,530 each.