Dr Fred Mugambi is a deputy commissioner at Kenya Revenue Authority and the head of Kenya School of Revenue Administration (Kesra).
His experience spans 15 years in education management, insurance and consultancy work in seven countries.
What is the mandate of the Kenya School of Revenue Administration?
Kesra is a department within KRA, the training arm of the authority that offers specialised training on customs, tax and fiscal policies.
Within our internal programmes, we handle about 7,000 employees of the authority.
We also conduct a number of short courses for other government agencies and county government employees on tax and fiscal policies.
We train at different levels – from certificate to diploma levels.
Our postgraduate courses are offered in partnership with local universities.
Why are studies in revenue administration important to the country?
KRA has a fairly wide mandate beyond revenue collection. Through the customs wing, we are responsible for border security and market protection.
Professionals working in customs and border control require specialised training. This necessitates such training, which cannot be delivered by other institutions.
Your postgraduate studies were in entrepreneurship. What do you appreciate most about SMEs?
Small enterprises play a very important wealth redistribution role in the economy. On average, 10 billionaires will consume only 10 loaves of bread daily, but if you have 1,000 small business owners, you will be able to sell 1,000 loaves of bread to these households.
We, therefore, need to empower more small-scale traders. This is the surest way to grow an economy.
You have been to Israel and China. How different is their SMEs domain from ours?
The SMEs space in most developed countries is well organised. China, for instance, puts a lot of emphasis on industrial parks.
With less than 12 million people, Israel has some of the largest companies in the world. Israeli entrepreneurs invest with the global market in mind because the local market is already saturated.
The mind-set is different here, we view SMEs, including hawkers, as a nuisance. Our micro and medium enterprise space is also disorganised.
This makes it harder for KRA to collect revenue. The effect is that the government lacks money to provide services to these enterprises.
What then can we do to spur local SMEs to better fortunes?
We need to have a robust policy framework within which to manage small enterprises.
Organising our SMEs around markets, access to raw material and credit services will enable them to take advantage of the economies of scale.
Integration of technology in their activities for efficiency is also key.
If we nurture a complete value chain at all stages of value addition by connecting production to the market, we will have created more opportunities for our young people.
Laws that require us to consume Kenyan made products could also boost local business innovations.
Have you ever learnt a skill that you did not use?
Everything learnt has its application space in life. As you learn a skill, your mind evolves and you start to perceive life differently.
From this experience, you will gather lessons that will come in handy at different levels in your life. Entrepreneurship emphasises creativity, innovation and risk-taking.
To manage this institution, I need these skills. As a professional, you are as good as the environment you interact with.
Kenya is still unable to meet its revenue targets. Where are we failing in our revenue collection?
We may not always meet our revenue targets as a country owing to different challenges, but our revenue collection has increased significantly over the last 10 years.
Countries such as Sweden, Belgium, Norway and Netherlands have nurtured high levels of patriotism.
There is pride in paying taxes. Kenyans must know that it is a patriotic duty to pay taxes. We need to educate our children that the way to contribute to national development is by faithfully paying taxes.
Do you have any insecurities?
My two daughters are four and 10 years. They are more important to me than my career.
Not being there to provide for them as they grow is my biggest fear. It is a concern that every parent has.
Do you have a slogan that guides you?
I am the captain of my ship, I am the master of my destiny, with God I can do anything. If I am broke, I am the reason.
If I have money to spare, it also because of me. Things go right or wrong in our lives mostly due to the actions and decisions we make.
This slogan has helped me to take full responsibility of my life and to remain focused.
Any valuable tip for someone reading this?
You don’t become the day you become, you become long before you become.
If you are promoted at work, you don’t get that promotion the day you receive the promotion letter.
You earn this a few years or months earlier. Many young people do not want to nurture the personality of what they want to become.
They want to get jobs and get promoted instantly. This cannot happen. You have to become by personality, so that the personality is noticed and then rewarded.
What do you do for recreation?
I am an amateur golfer and I also love travelling. Charity is also close to my heart.