Nandi County has suffered a blow after a court quashed sections of the Finance Act 2019 that stops the devolved unit from collecting land rates and levy on tea that is plucked using machines. Environment Land Court sitting in Eldoret declared on Tuesday that sections of the Nandi County Finance Act 2019, with respect to imposition of land rates and levies on machine plucked tea to be unconstitutional. The County government wanted to impose Sh2,000 per acre for those having over 250 and Sh1,000 for those with less than 250 acres and Sh5 for a kilo of the produce harvested by machine. “The court therefore finds that the section six of the Nandi County Finance Act 2019 and the Nandi County Finance (amendment) Act 2019 were enacted in breach to the specified articles of the constitution and therefore null and void,” said Judge M. A Odeny. Judge Odeny also issued a permanent injunction restraining the Nandi County, which was a respondent in this case, from demanding and collecting land rates from the petitioners. The county government had been taken to court by the Kenya Tea Growers Association, an umbrella body that represents all the multinational firms in the country. In quashing the rule on charging tea plucked by the machines, the judge argued that they were discriminatory and goes against the constitution on the right to own property. The court noted that the charges are arbitrary given that there was no rationale for differentiating between machine-plucked tea and other modes of tea plucking and also justifiable differentiation between other mechanised agricultural activities and mechanised tea plucking. Judge argued that whereas the counties have powers to impose property rates, the taxation and other revenue-raising powers of a county shall not be exercised in a way that prejudices national economic policies and economic activities across county boundaries or the national mobility of goods, services, capital or labour. “County governments have powers to raise rates but the procedure for the exercise of that power is provided in national legislation, that is too say, the Valuation of Rating Act (Cap 266) and the Rating Act (Cap 267) both of which are national laws,” the court said. The counties have been coming up with ways of raising their income in the wake of dwindling revenue collection in order to meet developmental needs.
Source: Business Daily