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By CAROLINE WAFULA
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Parliament is determined to exert its role as the
public watchdog despite outrage from in and outside
government that Members have been exercising
their role unreasonably.
But the MPs have unapologetically declared they are
operating within their constitutional mandate of
oversight and legislation as they ruffle the feathers of
the the Judiciary, media, civil society and even the
Executive.
And the legislators say they are far from done.
Some independent commissions and some
government officers recently appointed to public
office without vetting by the House are expected to
be next in line to face the MPs.
The Sunday Nation has learnt that there is a push to
have the Communication Commission of Kenya
disbanded altogether. The fight against the Salaries
and Remuneration Commission (SRC) and the
Commission for the Implementation of the
Constitution is also still on.
MPs have targeted the SRC over their salaries and
perks which they feel should be higher and the CIC
for holding divergent views from those arrived at by
the House.The House will also vet the appointment of
Mr John Mututho as chairman of the National
Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drug
Abuse (Nacada) that which was revoked following
demands from a section of MPs.
Questions have also been raised on the appointment
of former Permanent Secretary Joseph Kinyua to the
powerful position of Chief of Staff and Head of Public
Service with demands for his vetting as well.
Despite the concern their recent actions have caused,
Speakers Ekwe Ethuro (Senate) and Justin Muturi
(National Assembly) maintain that Parliament is only
exercising its constitutional mandate.
Mr Muturi, while responding on Friday to a complaint
by President Uhuru Kenyatta, said MPs were only
doing their job.
“We want to see Members of Parliament performing
their role. The Executive is accountable to the House,
and so we are looking into how best we can work to
enable both arms function without friction in a
seamless way,” he said.
Last week, President Kenyatta complained that
Parliament was demanding too much time from
members of his Cabinet and that they hardly had
time to attend to their dockets.
Attorney-General Githu Muigai has been forced to ask
for a workable schedule from the House to enable
him attend to other official duties, but his request
was dismissed by Mr Muturi.
The Speaker said he would not tolerate any excuses
and that anyone invited to appear before House
committees must do so.
PECKING ORDER
Mr Muturi is on record saying that the Executive
must understand its place in relation to the
Legislature. He has previously stated that the
pecking order of the exercise of the delegated
sovereign power puts Parliament before other arms
of government.
“This House has the exclusive function of exercising
oversight over all ministries, departments, State
organs and State officers in charge of these
institutions. I must insist that any hindrance to the
carrying out of this function can only be construed to
be an attempt to obstruct the National Assembly
from exercising one of its cardinal functions,” he
warned.
And speaking at the University of Nairobi on Friday,
Mr Ethuro said there will be no slowing down when it
comes to checking on other institutions. He said the
current system of government is such that the
Executive can only account to Parliament through
committees.
“The Executive is complaining of too many meetings
with Parliament, I don’t think we can ask for too
much when it comes to matters of oversight,” he
said.
“I don’t think the President should be worried about
his cabinet secretaries being invited. This is a new
system, and there’s a reason we went this way so let
us practice this until we find it impossible to go on
with it,” he said.
Mr Muturi said the National Assembly will summon
before its committees anyone, including governors,
and that all must comply.“We must appreciate the
role of Parliament. It could be a bit unclear because of
the new structure of government, but everybody
must play their part to make the Constitution
succeed. If not, they should be ready for sanctions as
this House finds appropriate,” he warned.
Such was the fate that met the six members of the
Judicial Service Commission who now could face
investigation by a tribunal after Parliament last week
endorsed a report of the Justice and Legal Affairs
Committee.
That the commissioners failed to honour an invitation
to appear before the committee played a big role in
the final report that recommended their removal.
The Speaker went on to remind the other arms of
government of provisions of Article 95 (5) of the
Constitution. It mandates the National Assembly to
review the conduct of State officers and initiate the
process of removing them from office. It goes further
to say in 5 (b) that the National Assembly shall also
exercise oversight over State organs.
However, there is concern about whether the
members of the National Assembly are being honest
and practical in their dealings with other arms of
government and civil society in discharging their
duties.
Critics say MPs seem to be on the warpath with
anyone who attempts to show their clout. Some are
even comparing the Assembly to a
slaughterhouse.There is also concern that MPs
appear to be more determined to prove they have
the upper hand in terms of control than anything
else.
Law lecturer Osogo Ambani, commenting on recent
events, said while Parliament may be operating
within its constitutional powers, MPs must be seen to
be acting in good faith.
“The problem is when there are no values and so we
witness things like corruption, tribal agenda and the
politicisation of issues,” he said.
The public, closely watching, is also casting
aspersions on the approach exhibited in a number of
deliberations as seen through comments on social
media.
PERSONAL DIFFERENCES
Early last month, the nomination of Constituency
Development Fund Board chairperson Jennifer Barasa
to the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) was
opposed by a section of MPs who demanded her
substitution.
The reasons advanced for that move were, however,
not related to her professional qualifications or
performance, rather to personal differences with
some of the MPs. The argument was that she is
disrespectful to them.
At the forefront was Ijara MP Abass Ahmed who had
previously worked at the CDF Board. He told his
colleagues Ms Barasa had called MPs greedy and lazy
and that it was surprising that she had applied for
the job.
“Madam Barasa does not deserve to even be an
intern in this institution, forget about being a
commissioner,” the member concluded.
Also opposing her appointment, Tiaty MP Asman
Kamama equated Ms Barasa to Ms Sarah Serem, SRC
chair.
“I want to inform my colleagues that when you are
choosing a member who is going to be in charge of
your welfare, please make sure you are meticulous
and you know what you are doing because we did
this sometime back when we approved the
appointment of Ms Serem who came here lobbying,
and she ended up being MPs’ greatest enemy,” he
said.
“On this one, don’t make a mistake. If you support
this lady, you will regret it.” he warned.
Mr Kamama said Ms Barasa had treated MPs like
kindergarteners at an induction workshop at Safari
Park, further accusing her of frustrating MPs in
constituency funds management.
“I want you to oppose with all your hearts and all
your zeal, and let our brothers from Cord bring
another person and please don’t allow this lady to
come here,” the member urged. It was, clearly, a
case of personal differences and perhaps even
hearsay, and some MPs were bold enough to note
that aloud.
Mr Ambani said whatever Parliament does, it must be
seen to be within the law and any excesses must be
checked.
“People are not used to having their power checked
or taken away, obviously. Therefore, there will be
some war, the kind that we have been witnessing,”
he said.
He pointed out that the public can always move to
court to challenge any decisions of Parliament they
feel are unconstitutional. In the same breath, he said,
the President can always exercise his veto powers by
refusing to assent into law any Bills sent to him that
could be contentious and unconstitutional.

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