Senate targets referendum to push back MPs

June 12, 2013 5:15 pm
Governors Caucus chairman Isaac Ruto flanked by Senators and Governors. Photo/ MIKE KARIUKI
Governors Caucus chairman Isaac Ruto flanked by Senators and Governors. Photo/ MIKE KARIUKI

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 12 – Smarting from the recent humiliation over the Division of Revenue Act, Senators and Governors have now ganged up to engineer the first amendment to the Constitution of Kenya 2010 through the popular mandate of the people.

After a meeting between the Senate and Governors in Nairobi on Wednesday, the leaders resolved to push for an amendment to the Constitution and give the Senate greater say on all Bills that touch on aspects of devolution.

The Senators and Governors are irked by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s move to assent to the Division of Revenue Bill which was passed by the National Assembly minus the proposed input from the Senate.

The Bill that allocates monies to the two tiers of government (national and counties) has set aside Sh210 billion to the counties as opposed to the Sh258 billion that had been recommended by the Senate but which was later overturned by the National Assembly.

Now the unhappy Senators want to adjourn business next week and embark on a nationwide campaign to recruit one million signatures for a constitutional amendment, as provided in the supreme law.

The Constitution sets out tough rules for any amendment, and one of them is through the popular initiative which requires the support of at least one million registered voters whose petition shall be presented to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The Commission is then required to submit the draft Bill to all the 47 county assemblies where at least half are required to approve it before being taken to the National Assembly and the Senate for Parliament’s approval.

“In the event that either of the Houses (Senate or National Assembly) does not pass the amendment, the question goes to the referendum directly so no single House can veto an amendment to the Constitution which has been arrived at through popular initiative,” said Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki.

This means that all the Senators and Governors now need is to marshal the support of at least one million voters and the consent of County Assemblies. The chairman of the Caucus of Governors Isaac Ruto said the County chief executives have endorsed the move and they will also be involved in a series of planned countrywide rallies.

“The Senators will also find time to address the (County) Assemblies all over the country and explain further as to what is at stake and give guidance,” he said.

President Kenyatta assented to the contentious legislation on Monday night, prompting an application by Senators at the Supreme Court seeking to reverse the President’s decision.

“We are indeed proceeding to the Supreme Court for a constitutional advisory on the way forward because we are convinced that the signing of the Division of Revenue Bill by the President is not in public interest and that it will kill devolution,” Kindiki said.

Nairobi Governor Evans Kidero said that county development projects that would have depended on the additional funds may be crippled.

“Rather than a bottom-up budgeting process, it was a top-down budgeting process because the cost of the functions being devolved had not been done. There is no clear knowledge that the amount of money we are getting is sufficient,” he explained.

He stated that as things stand, county governments will not be able to pay salaries of their staff and may have to force the governors to preside over failed projects.

“What the governors are saying is that we do not want to be set up for failure. We know there are agents who do not want devolution to succeed so the less money they give so that it does not work, the better for them,” he said.

In the meantime, President Kenyatta also defended his action saying he acted strictly within the law in assenting to the Bill.

In a statement, the Head of State stated that in the aftermath of the stalemate between the two Houses of Parliament, the options of the Executive under the law are limited to not acting at all, vetoing the Bill or Assenting to the Bill.

He explained that the option of not acting at all would not help the situation as the Bill would become law after 14 days while vetoing the Bill would similarly have led to further delays in the budgetary process.

He indicated that the most prudent cause of action was to assent to the Bill in order to facilitate the timely conclusion of budgetary process and avert the risk of bringing Government business to a halt.

He said not signing the Bill would have severely compromised the ability of county governments to take off in the very first year.


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