, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 5 – Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi has called upon African Commonwealth Parliaments to embrace oversight to ensure they remain accountable to the people they represent.
Speaking at the 15th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers’ Conference Africa Region in Accra, Ghana Muturi noted that the most effective form of overseer is self regulation by enforcing the discipline of individual members.
“A person charting a path has no way of knowing whether the path is straight or crooked, unless advised by another person watching from behind,” said Muturi further stating that “there is no doubt about the fact that parliamentary functions and activities need to be scrutinised if we are to remain relevant to the citizenry on whose mandate we function.”
Muturi lauded the media for their role of informing the public but also cautioned them against the tendency to wage wars between the public and other institutions among them the Legislature.
Muturi recently introduced new rules where chairmen from different committees would be required to report progress of activities to the House every Wednesday.
“As an institution we should be interested in the public perception about us. No Legislature can behave like it is so up high that it cannot be over-sighted,” he retorted.
While making his contribution during an earlier debate on the role of Speakers and Presiding Officers in enhancing Legislature, Judiciary and Executive relations towards effective inter-governmental relations, Speaker of the Senate Ekwee Ethuro appreciated the current relationship between the Senate and the Judiciary, but cautioned the courts against interfering with the work of Parliament.
“The doctrine of separation of powers is an ideal that we must hold on as parliaments but we find the Judiciary over-bearing when they drag the Speakers into a litigation process in the matter touching on the work of the House,” he said.
Contributing to the debate, Ugandan Speaker Rebecca Kadaga decried the continuous interference by the Executive on parliamentary activities by using the Judiciary and the Attorney General to implement their agenda, saying this had negatively impacted on how activities were run in the House.
She cited a recent case in which the ruling party expelled four MPs and the Attorney General’s office wrote to her instructing her to implement the party’s decision.
“I could not allow the Attorney General, himself a Member of Parliament to instruct me. Though no Arm of Government is wholly independent, Parliament must safeguard its independence,” she said.
Muturi further outlined the role of Parliament as holding the government to account in respect to how taxpayers’ money is used and detecting waste so as to improve efficiency and effectiveness of government.
Parliament also has the important role of improving transparency of government operations and ensuring that government delivers on policies authorized by parliament.
The Kenyan Parliament and particularly the National Assembly has constantly received a backlash from the public who have termed it as a ‘rogue’ Parliament with many having lost faith in its ability to pass credible laws.
The House has since made attempts to clean up its image with the Speaker coming up with stricter rules and regulations to instil discipline to the members who ‘behave dishonourably’.