Kakamega traders protest high fees for licenses

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Traders in Kakamega have protested the increase in licensing charges by the county government, terming the move exploitative.

They accused the county government of unilaterally raising the single business permit charges without explaining to them why there should be an increment.

Trade licence fees for this financial year have increased by between 30 and 40 per cent.

Francis Chipwondo, a tailor in Kakamega town, had his licence for this year increased from Sh6,000 to Sh8,000.

He said they were being forced to pay for fire compliance, yet they were operating on rented premises.

“I have been paying licences for over three decades but have not even seen a dustbin installed, yet they should supply them,” he said.

Another trader, who did not want to be named, said if one operates a general shop and an M-Pesa on the same premise, they are being forced to pay for firefighting certificates twice.   

“If I am selling foodstuff and I also do M-Pesa across the same counter why should I be asked to pay for fire compliance certificate twice while the premise remains the same?” the trader said.  

Senator Cleophas Malala last week accused the county administration of implementing illegal charges.

He said the county was operating outside the Finance Act passed by the assembly.  

But County Revenue Collection Agency boss Beatrice Memo said the agency was implementing the county revenue 2020 Act.

She said traders were mistaking the inclusion of fire compliance certificate fees in the permit for an increment in the licence fee.

“If you have a general shop and an M-Pesa outlet, these are two businesses with two licences. Fire compliance certificates are pegged to the licence and premise,” she said. 

Kakamega Kenya National Chambers of Commerce and Industry chairman Wycliffe Kibisu said the taxation regime was killing trade instead of promoting it.

“We have had a meeting with the county trade executive Alfred Matianyi, and he has promised to consult with his treasury counterpart and get back to us,” he said.

MCA Lazaro Luchebeleli said the county revenue department had loaded charges meant for urban areas to rural traders.

“I have said no to those charges. They are not practical because businesses have suffered a serious downturn during the Covid-19 pandemic that we’re still in,” he said.

Bukura MCA Walter Andati said the punitive taxation regime was an ODM affair.

He said the selection of members to attend sittings was skewed towards ODM for the bill to pass as it was generated by the finance committee.

County assembly majority leader Joel Ongoro said the assembly leadership would re-look at the Act if need be.

“It’s true there are issues that we’ve heard. I will consult with the minister after re-looking at the Act and I can assure you that action will be taken if anyone is doing anything wrong,” he said.