, NAIROBI, Kenya Nov 27 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga has accused Parliamentary Committees of frustrating the operations of the government.
Mr Odinga complained that many senior civil servants were now wary of being summoned to explain or justify their decisions.
The PM who spoke at a meeting of Parliamentary Committee chairmen on ‘Improved Partnership between the Legislature and the Executive,’ complained that the scrutiny was too extreme.
“We are not trying to deny Parliament its oversight function, but what is happening if not checked can paralyse government Mr speaker and that the moment Mr Speaker it has done just that,” he said.
He added: “Business people are put off from doing business with the government both because of scrutiny and the fear that public procurement contracts will be challenged and their operations delayed” he told the MPs.
He said top civil servants were working slower “because of House teams breathing down their necks.”
The Speaker of National Assembly Kenneth Marende however defended the public watchdogs, saying Parliament was expected to hold the Executive accountable as it seeks to ensure that all resources were utilised according to the needs of Kenyans and were properly accounted for.
Mr Marende was categorical that civil servants must be ready to work within the new Standing Orders and respond to any audit queries the House will require them to.
Watchdog committees have begun keeping a closer eye on public spending and are now challenging certain payments before they are made.
“I want to demystify this myth or theory that the legislature is threatening to override or is overriding the Executive because there is no substance in it,” he said.
Mr Marende said that with the new Standing Orders, the system of auditing and querying expenditure of public funds had now taken a new dimension.
He singled out the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chaired by Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale for directly querying and auditing public funds before and in the payment stages.
This is a departure from previous practice, where committees merely carried out "post-mortem reports" of public spending.
In the former system, the team would be looking at past cases of possible fraud, suspicious variation of costs, single-sourcing and outright theft.
The PAC summoned Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and other officials and questioned them for over three hours on the procurement of 130 VW Passat vehicles for government officials. The move, according as outlined in Mr Kenyatta’s June Budget Speech was aimed at cutting government spending on transport.
But Mr Odinga said some of the committees had misunderstood the mandates.
“I did not understand how therefore the PAC summoned the Minister for Finance to go and answer question regarding the procurement of the Passat vehicles. I don’t see how that falls within the domain of the PAC. I think it is the responsibility of the Speaker to draw the attention of the members of those committees to the standing orders so that the relationship between the legislature and executive becomes harmonious.”
Committees usually presented reports to the House two or three years after questionable transactions. But now, government officials can expect to have to provide explanations as some transactions are executed.