Kenyan prime minister pays $37K in back taxes

AP News
Posted: Jun 27, 2011 1:30 PM
Kenyan prime minister pays $37K in back taxes

Kenya's prime minister on Monday paid more than $37,000 in back taxes to abide by a new constitution that requires lawmakers to pay taxes on their hefty allowances.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged legislators to follow suit, saying that politicians should "lead by example and show that we are ready and prepared to pay taxes."

Kenyan lawmakers _ who are among the best paid in Africa _ have for years rejected calls to pay taxes. Constituents and critics have in the past vilified them for awarding themselves pay hikes and benefits.

"The new constitution is the source of so many hopes for so many of our people," said Odinga as he presented the check to Kenya's Revenue Authority on Monday. "If we implement it successfully in the letter and the spirit, it will help us combat corruption and protect our people's rights. It will help us strengthen the economy improve services and raise the living standards."

The lawmakers previously paid taxes only on their monthly basic salary of about $2,200 _ but not on their allowances of more than $7,100.

Kenya's Revenue Authority last week said lawmakers' properties will be auctioned if they don't each pay nearly $21,000 in back taxes.

The taxes are backdated to last August, when Kenya passed a new constitution.

Some lawmakers said they would oppose the order to pay the taxes, touching off a widespread public outcry in the East African nation.

Opponents of the taxes argued that they had other demands to meet, such as mortgages and loans, and that they were notified too late.

Anti-corruption activist Mwalimu Mati welcomed Odinga's move, saying lawmakers have no other option but to follow the constitution "because it is a political reality that if you don't, you damage your career."