President Uhuru Kenyatta has promised Kenyans that funds spent in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic will be audited publicly once the disease is over.
In his Labour Day speech from State House Nairobi, Mr Kenyatta said every “shilling, every cent” will be accounted for, saying those who are raising questions on expenditure are engaging in cheap politics.
“Let us not use this fight against coronavirus to be like our time to play petty politics,” he said in Kiswahili. “All the money that has been spent in this pandemic, when its time comes, will be audited in broad daylight.”
He went on: “We will make it public. Nothing will be hidden. But now is not the time to quarrel. It is the time to save lives, dear leaders. If you have mercy on your people, this is the time for you to be supportive of the efforts that we are all undertaking to ensure that we defeat this virus.”
Mr Kenyatta’s address was largely on the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects it has caused on the country’s workforce.
Urging Kenyans to take seriously the measures issued by the government towards combating the virus, the president warned that up to 500,000 jobs could be lost in the next six months if the pandemic goes on.
He also mentioned his recent interventions towards cushioning lower-cadre staff, chiefly the move to exempt those earning gross pay of Sh24,000 and below from remitting pay-as-you-earn tax.
Speaking before Mr Kenyatta, the secretary-general of the Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu), Mr Francis Atwoli, asked Mr Kenyatta to consider having more employees enjoy the tax relief, arguing that it can cover all those earning Sh100,000 and below.
In response, Mr Kenyatta promised to look into the matter but was quick to add that taxes are important for the progress of the country.
The president also promised to announce more plans towards bringing the economy back on its feet after the coronavirus fight is over.
He called on Kenyans to be ready to invest more in products by fellow Kenyans as one of the moves that will resuscitate the economy that has been battered by the effects of the virus.
Mr Kenyatta also cited foresight in the government’s move to transport flowers to patients and healthcare workers in the United Kingdom. It is a move that has drawn criticism from various quarters but the President believes it is a good marketing strategy.
“We must look ahead,” he said. “For those flowers we have sent, we have kept thousands and thousands and thousands of Kenyans employed… When we send the flowers and they see they are from Kenya, when the market is reopened, whenever someone will be shopping for flowers, the first thing he or she will think is, ‘That one thought of me when I was in problems. That is where I will buy my flowers.’”
Mr Kenyatta said he was amused by Kenyans making fun of the move: “Think before you start talking nonsense on this social media of yours. We must protect our economy.”
Mr Atwoli’s address touched on a number of issues, among them the tiff between Cotu and the Salaries and Remuneration Commission (SRC).
The Cotu boss expressed hope that the commission will be disbanded when if the proposals in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) sail through.
The Cotu boss also took a swipe at the Judiciary due to the fact that a number of corruption suspects have been released on bail, thus derailing the fight against corruption.
He also praised President Kenyatta’s government over the recent move to repossess land initially intended for a sewerage in Nairobi’s Ruai that had been grabbed by a politician.
This year’s Labour Day event was a start opposite from previous years’ events as it was devoid of marches by cadres of employment, performances and large crowds.
Only Mr Kenyatta, Mr Atwoli, Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui and few other people were present, sitting far from each other and wearing face masks.