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Catholics take county to court over school levies

Nairobi Catholics are suing the county over charges for schools, training centres and health centres it operates.

The diocese is seeking an order to restrain the county from collecting fees and what it termed as harassment of its workers.

On its part, the county government told Justice George Odunga that the request for exemption could not be considered since the diocese had not formally asked for it.

Issuance of permits to business premises at a fee is one of the avenues through which the county raises revenue.

In the plea for exemption, the Catholic trustees claimed that county officials had been issuing demand notices to its institutions, including St Thomas Burke and Vendramini Educational centres, St Joseph Mukasa dispensary, Baba Dogo Sacred Heart Primary School, Mary Queen Catholic School and the St Bakhita dispensary in Mukuru slums in Embakasi.

The Trustees said the notices for demand failed to take into account that they (Trustees) had a sole mission of promoting spiritual and social wellbeing of the community.

“The county government has failed to take into account that the diocese and its institutions are not business entities carrying out trade as defined in the Trade Licensing Act,” read part of the application.

But in a response filed by the county Chief Licensing Officer Mr P Kinyanjui, the county government insisted that the diocese did not qualify to be exempted from the levies.

Mr Kinyanjui in his affidavit said a fee structure obtained from one of the schools was inconsistent with the trustees’ contention that it offered service to the community.

However, lawyer Olando Olembo for the diocese argued that the fees paid was minimal and it only supplemented what donors gave.

The diocese also claimed that the county had failed to appreciate the fact that under city by-laws, it was empowered to exempt charitable institutions from payment for permits.