Intense lobbying is underway to block demands by the National Assembly to have details of revenue generated, tax paid and list of beneficiaries through broadcast gambling by local radio stations made public by National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani, The Informer has established.
The fourteen days deadline to respond to the question raised by Kiambaa legislator John Njuguna alias Ka-Wanjiku for the CS to furnish the House with financial details, records of tax remittances to Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA), paybill issued by telecommunication firms and beneficiaries of broadcast gambling by local radio stations will lapse tomorrow.
While presiding over the parliamentary proceedings a fortnight ago, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Honourable Moses Cheboi ruled that the question raised be addressed through departmental committee on Finance and National Planning.
According to impeccable sources privy will the silent and powerful lobbying attempt backed by alleged well-oiled financial war-chest, owners of the radio prize competitions fear divulging of financial transactions and records could open a pandoras box with the taxman.
Further, the Betting Control and Licensing Board (BCLB) has written to the Media Owners of Association (MOA) Chairman Wachira Waruru ordering for immediate stoppage of unauthorised prize competitions and public lotteries.
Waruru who is the current Managing Director of Royal Media Services owned by city tycoon S.K Macharia stepped down from his role as the MOA Chairman in April this year after three terms in office.
He has been succeeded by Nation Media Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Stephen Gitagama.
“It has come to the attention of this Board that several media stations have been carrying on the business of prize competitions and public lotteries aired during diverse programs throughout the day. These prize competitions and lotteries are being offered to the members of the public without any authorisation from Betting Control and Licensing Board.
“By copy of this letter, Safaricom Limited PLC is hereby directed to shut down any short codes, USSD codes and paybill numbers that are being used to conduct unathorised prize competitions and public lotteries until the necessary authorization is obtained from this board.” A correspondence by BCLB Director Peter Mbugi to Waruru referenced REF: BCLB 1/27 VOL .1 (72) reads in part.
The MP further sought for a comprehensive breakdown of financial statements and revenue generated for the last one year.
“Could the Cabinet Secretary provide details on ownership and value of transactions of all paybills and paybill numbers registered by Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya used in betting and gaming activities by major vernacular radio stations and more particularly by Inooro FM, Kameme FM and Gukena FM? Could the Cabinet Secretary further provide details on the financial statements of the paybill transactions, inclusive of names of beneficiaries, amounts paid and tax revenue generated within the last one year? What action is the government taking to address alleged cases of money laundering activities being undertaken through betting activities by the broadcast media in Kenya?” He posed.
According to records seen by The Informer, Inooro FM, a subsidiary radio station owned by SK Macharia of the Royal Media Services is said to operate paybill number 326325, Kameme FM, a branch of the Mediamax Network Limited is said to be operating two paybill numbers; 65099 and 4030041.
Coro FM, Radio Maisha and Radio Jambo are operating similar paybill numbers 4080045, 40360045 and 812531 respectively all issued by the Peter Ndegwa giant telco firm, Safaricom.
Safaricom, a telecommunication giant has been fingered as being in an unholy union with leading broadcast media, particularly radio stations in perpetuating unlicensed radio betting and prize promotions of the largely unregulated sector.
Additionally, the MPs want to establish if the radio stations are observing the mandatory deduction of 20 per cent payment of withholding tax as per the Income Tax Act so that KRA does not lose billions of shillings through tax evasion.