On Thursday, Treasury Cabinet Secretary (CS) Henry Rotich announced that James Githii Mburu would be taking over at the Times Towers, KRA head office located in Nairobi for a period of three years.
Mburu, who will be taking over from John Njiraini edged out four other male candidates namely: Julius Mwatu, Richard Boro Ndung'u, Duncan Otieno Onduru and Andrew Kazora Okello who were in the race to succeed Njiraini.
Mr. Mburu, who holds a Masters programme in Public Policy and Analysis from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Science as well as a Bachelors of Commerce and Accounting from Kenyatta University, is an insider and currently serves as the KRA’s commissioner for intelligence and strategic operations where he is responsible for promoting ethical conduct at the Kenya Revenue Authority and in combating tax evasion through intelligence collection & management.
Prior to serving as commissioner for intelligence and strategic operations, Mburu was head of Tax Investigations at the same state agency for three years and four months from December 2013 – March 2017.
He has worked at the KRA for the last 12 years where he has Headed Tax Audit policy, Audit of large Taxpayers, and Investigation functions.
In his linked account, Mr Mburu claims he has over 21 years of experience in the areas of Tax Administration, Finance, Policy & Strategy development & implementation and in Training & Development.
His appointment as the new commissioner general was not, however, smooth sailing. Local activist Okiya Omtatah unsuccessfully tried to block his bid by having his name excluded from the shortlist of candidates of the KRA Commissioner General.
Omtatah had gone to court and argued having his name on the list amounted to facilitating a scheme to capture KRA and claimed he is a relative of the outgoing boss John Njiraini.
In 2017, Omtatah filed a case that is still pending in court in which he challenged the creation of the vacancy for Mburu. Omtatah at the time argued that Mburu had been handpicked to fill the position in a drawn-out scheme to rig the appointment of the commissioner general.
Mr Mburu comes to the helm of KRA at a time when the state agency is ridden with scandals.
Under Njiraini’s tenure, the state agency has struggled to hit its tax revenue targets amidst allegations of its officials engaging in tax evasion schemes.
In 2017/18 financial year, KRA missed its target by Sh240 billion ($2.4 billion) after managing to collect only Sh1.17 trillion in taxes as of the end of May.
In May 2019, it emerged that the taxman had again missed its target by Sh61 billion ($610 million).
The tax evasion racket that happened at the port of Mombasa saw rogue KRA staff collude with unscrupulous traders to facilitate false declarations to deny the taxman requisite taxes such as import duty. They also allowed in counterfeits in exchange for kickbacks.
Last month more than 70 KRA employees were arrested and arraigned in court over tax evasion allegations.
Similarly, in the month of May, President Uhuru Kenyatta replaced five of the nine KRA board members, among them the chairman, Dr Edward Sambili, through a Special Gazette notice.
Some board members are currently under investigation for various transgressions including doing business with KRA, impending tax collection by protecting firms that owed the authority money and undermining management efforts to collect money owed to the State.
It remains to be seen whether Mburu’s tenure would be any better than Njiraini’s.