Transport along the Garissa-Nairobi highway was briefly interrupted Saturday, after angry residents barricaded the road to protest what they termed as double taxation by Tana River county government.
Waving placards and twigs, the residents said since the beginning of the year, revenue clerks have been frequently visiting their business premises and forcing them to pay double or triple the stipulated amount.
They claimed that those who fail to comply are arrested and taken to court with trumped up charges being preferred against them.
According to the traders, 15 people have in the last 10 days been charged in court but have since been released on bail.
Speaking to the press at the trading center, Peter Muthee who owns a cereals store said that their effort to seek audience with the relevant authorities to have the issue resolved have hit a brick wall as they are only told to ‘comply’.
“We are here to say that enough is enough. We will not allow them to over tax us. As business people we know our rights. There is no way a single business premises can be issued with two licenses,” lamented Muthee.
“Going forward as traders we will not pay an extra coin to the county authorities. In fact, we will soon be moving to court to have them compelled to refund the extra monies they have been collecting from us,” he added.
Some of the licenses they showed to the press indeed confirmed that a single business premises was paying twice the stipulated amount while others even paid thrice the required amount.
On his part, another trader Andrew Kimani said that they will from now hence forth stop paying cash money but instead they would demand to be given a pay bill number or a bank account to stop corruption.
Mary Muthee, who owns an eatery also said that it was unfortunate to see them being overcharged, while county services remained poor.
“These people are only interested in taking our money and yet they are not giving us any meaningful services. We lack public toilets and are forced to rush to our residential areas when responding to a call of nature. Litter is also thrown everywhere. Surely they can do better,” Muthee said.
But speaking on phone, the county director of revenue Franc Daido denied allegations of double taxation and harassment by his officers.
He instead accused the traders of refusing to cooperate by paying what rightfully belongs to the county. “As a county we are simply enforcing the Finance Act 2016.Unfortuntely when our revenue clerks go to these business owners, they simply don’t want to pay up,” he said.
By Jacob Songok