Senator-elect Okiya Omtatah wants the Busia County Assembly to institute legislation to control sand harvesting to safeguard residents engaged in the trade from exploitation.
He made the remarks on Saturday at Kiwimbi Library in Amagoro in Teso North Sub County during celebrations to mark the Library’s tenth anniversary.
Omtatah said the business is exploitative hence the County Assembly should pass a law spelling out how much money traders should pay at points where the sand is collected.
“The sand is classified as among the best in the country since it is river water-washed. We cannot have business people coming from outside the county to fetch sand at throw away prices,” Omtatah stated.
He cited a case where sand acquired at Sh2, 500 in Busia retails in Nakuru and Naivasha at between Sh30, 000 and Sh40, 000 depending on the location of the client buying it.
Omtatah also urged the County Government of Busia to get tough on traders harvesting sand and ferrying it outside the county without paying cess. “Whoever harvests sand in Busia must pay tax to the county government so that that the money can help our people.
Busia can generate a lot of revenue from the sand business which can be used to fund development projects beneficial to residents,” said Omtatah.
He noted that there is need for the sand harvesting to be regulated in accord with environmental laws to avoid adverse effects.
“All the sand harvested in Busia must be collected with express authority from NEMA because we must ensure that as the sand is collected, our water sources are not affected in any way,”
The Senator-elect said sand as a resource needs to be protected and warned that if it cannot be utilized properly, then it should be left intact in the rivers.
“We must protect our water sources as we also ensure that tax is paid to the county government. NEMA must ensure that when this sand is harvested our water sources are not destroyed,” Omtatah said.
On the issue of child labour in most sand harvesting sites, Omtatah appealed to local authorities to be watchful and deal with parents who engage school children in the trade.
Senator Omtatah also took the opportunity to fault the previous Busia county administration for failing to raise adequate revenue to support the county development agenda despite the county hosting two major One-Stop Border Posts in the towns of Malaba and Busia.
He said the county government has not been declaring the rightful tax it has been collecting.
“There is no way the Malaba Town Council would collect over Sh1 billion a decade ago before devolution and then today with all the structures the county government has put in place, we only collect Sh170 million,” said Omtatah.
He challenged the new administration led by Governor Paul Otuoma to seal the loopholes in the county’s revenue collection system to curb pilferage.