Thursday, June 20, 2024

When MPs and senators took Sh100m ego trip to State House

Uhuru- JubileeFor the rest of the country, Tuesday morning was a day for Jubilee leaders to meet President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to plan for the next big battle at the 2017 General Election.

But for the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament and the respective Jubilee leaders, it was Judgment Day— they were at State House to report each other to the President.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and Majority Leader Aden Duale reportedly told the President that the Senate was sitting on very crucial Bills — dealing with procurement and public audit— for nearly six months, and by extension slowing down the fight against corruption.

Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro and his Majority Leader Kindiki Kithure rebutted the claims and insisted that they had expeditiously processed the Bills they

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got from the National Assembly and even the audit and procurement Bills were in the legislative pipeline.

They reportedly told “boss” (that’s what they call the President) that the National Assembly was frustrating the Senate, and painting it as an unnecessary organ that just gobbles billions in taxpayers’ money without tangible output.

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When the finger-pointing was done, President Kenyatta was upset and read the riot act to the Speakers and Jubilee political leaders in Kenya’s bicameral Parliament over legislative fights that have so far cost the taxpayer at least Sh100 million, not just in court fees, but also in wasted man-hours, allowances, and millions spent on public participation.

The senators went back and passed the laws within hours. The burden removed, they went on recess. The National Assembly though, having trashed five laws that came from the Senate on constitutional grounds, had nothing in their in-tray.

As the MPs proceed for their December holidays, The Standard On Saturday can report a breakdown of communication between the two Houses and now the matter is headed to the courts.

The big headache for the Senate is that the National Assembly rubbished five Bills that the Senate had approved after a laborious process.

The Bills dealt with issues such as having village elders — especially in marginalised communities where they act as judges, advisors and peace-keepers — getting some money; ending the feud between the two Houses; defining how natural resources shall be shared with communities and even forcing counties to spend 60 per cent of their budgets on development, if only to end the pilferage in the devolved units.

devolution succeeds

If you ask Speaker Ethuro, Senate Majority Whip Beatrice Elachi and one of the senators whose Bill on sharing benefits from natural resources was trashed, Dr Agnes Zani, they will all tell you that the MPs had “overstepped their mandate” and that they were out to “frustrate” the Senate from doing its work. They say they have been trying to make laws to make sure devolution succeeds, but their counterparts in the National Assembly want to neuter them.

“No law gives the National Assembly the power to just rubbish the Bills. They have to get the Bills and process them. They can delete the clauses, but they cannot say ‘no, we can’t process these Bills’,” Ethuro said.

Different interpretation

He reads a conspiracy where the National Assembly, “after it lost its argument of ‘the Senate only deals with Bills concerning counties’, has now come with another excuse of ‘money Bills only originate in the National Assembly’”.

“Surely, the word used is “may”, not “shall”… if we were to entertain that argument, why then does the Senate originate the County Allocation of Revenue Bill?” posed Ethuro.

But for Speaker Muturi and the chairman of the Budget Committee Mutava Musyimi, the law was clear that the Senate had no business dealing with Money Bills. Their view is that the Constitution gives Muturi’s “opinion” and the “recommendation” of the Budget Committee the power and authority to decide if a Bill can be categorized as a money Bill or not. Money Bills deal with taxes, imposing charges on any public fund, appropriation, receipt, custody, investment, issue of public money, the raising or guaranteeing of any loan or its repayment.

Article 109(5) of the Constitution says “a money Bill may be introduced only in the National Assembly”. Article 114 says “the Assembly may proceed only in accordance with the recommendation of the relevant Committee of the Assembly after taking into account the views of the Cabinet Secretary responsible for Finance”.

“I put emphasis on the words “in accordance with the recommendation of the relevant committee of the Assembly” as that is the authority that primarily informs my statement. It is the finding of my committee that since those are money Bills, they can only originate in the National Assembly. In this regard, the five Bills … are rendered unconstitutional by operation of Articles 109(5) and 114(2),” said Musyimi when he lit the match to the latest legislative brawl.


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