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Malaba traders protest hiked levies

Traders in Busia County’s Malaba Municipality are up in arms against the county government for unilaterally raising single business permit charges and license fees without explanation.

On Tuesday a meeting held between the traders and the County Finance Chief Executive Phaustine Barasa in Malaba town to resolve the issue ended prematurely after the traders stormed out and demanded an audience with the Governor.

The traders accused the county government of laxity in addressing their plight, hence asked Governor Sospeter Ojaamong to intervene and lower the levies increased by between 100 and 300 percent.

The new levies are as a result of the 2020 Finance Act which the Busia County Assembly passed last year.

Traders who spoke during the stormy meeting for instance wondered how a person running a posho-mill business within Malaba Municipality and who was levied Sh5, 000 in 2021 has this year received an invoice from the revenue officials indicating he should pay Sh18, 000.

A salon operator within the town disclosed to the meeting that she is now required to part with Sh12, 000 to renew her business permit despite paying Sh3, 000 in 2020 and Sh5, 000 in 2021.

James Kangara a traders’ representative in Malaba town said the increment is exploitative and is a threat to some of their businesses. 

He told the meeting: “These rates are abnormal. We know that when an increase in license fees and business permits occurs, the increment ordinarily never goes beyond Sh2, 000.

This move has irked traders. We want to meet the governor so that he can listen to our grievances and we are confident that he will help us.”

  “Traders in Malaba love peace. The objective of convening today’s meeting was because we did not want to take action that would have negatively affected the peace we enjoy in Malaba. What we want is for us to have a discussion with the county government because of this increment,” he said.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Busia Chapter director Fred Papa appealed to the governor to intervene and resolve the impasse before the March 31 deadline for paying the fees.

 “The meeting went on well until traders disagreed with the officials because they did not agree on the resolutions. That is why we have decided to look for solutions elsewhere. We have just held another meeting and we have agreed that before we take any other step we should engage the governor.

“We have mandated Malaba Central ward representative Benard Ibela to book an appointment with the governor who will meet the traders’ representatives. If possible, the governor should come to Malaba and address traders because we held a similar meeting with him in 2016,” Papa told the press.

Business protest:  Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Busia Chapter director Fred Papa addresses the press in Malaba town

Barasa tried in vain to convince the traders to abide by the 2020 Finance Act which she noted is now a law. She said the increment in business permits and license fees was effected following the elevation of Malaba to a municipality.

“That is what pushed up the charges. Once we have a new law in place, there is no way we can go back and implement the old laws,” she stated

Barasa told the traders that legally, she has no authority to intervene and lower the fees since the Act is already a law.

“If there is any trader with any complaint and sees that maybe he or she may have been given an invoice with high charges let them present their complaints in writing to our Finance office and we will address their problems appropriately,” she added.

A seven-member committee comprising of the business community within the Municipality has since been constituted and is scheduled to meet the governor and convince him to have the law amended to review the high fees before March 31.

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