, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 8 – President Mwai Kibaki has banned Cabinet Ministers and their assistants from travelling abroad to enable them participate in the Constitution debate in Parliament.
The President said it was vital for their presence in Parliament to ensure a new Constitution is delivered on time.
“I am directed to inform you that during this time when Parliament is considering that Draft Constitution, Ministers and Assistant Ministers will not be allowed to travel outside the country so that they are available for Parliamentary Debate on Constitution,” read the circular signed by the Head of Public Service Ambassador Francis Muthaura.
The circular is copied to the Prime Minster Raila Odinga and Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka.
Cabinet Ministers and assistants usually have to seek clearance to travel abroad from the Office of the President.
Government Spokesman Alfred Mutua said the move was aimed at reducing occasions where questions and debates have been postponed due to the absence of Ministers and Assistant Ministers when they travel out of the country on government business.
Parliament has on many occasions been hit by quorum hitches which paralyse the business of the House.
“Most of the time when the President or the Prime Minister want to know what has been discussed in Parliament or who voted you find quite a number of Minister and Assistant Ministers didn’t vote and the excuse they use is that they have been outside the country but that will not be possible now,” he said.
The Cabinet comprises about 90 Ministers and Assistant Ministers who form close to half of MPs in Parliament.
The Draft Constitution was tabled in Parliament last week and MPs have 30 days of debate it once it comes up for the second reading.
The 27-man team which met in Naivasha proposes a pure and powerful presidential system checked by an equally strong 290-member Parliament, a House of Senate and an extensive and elaborate network of regional government.
However, some members expressed concerns with the Committee of Experts for instituting some changes such as making the Senate to be superior to the National Assembly.
They argued if the Senate were made more powerful, Senators would easily intimidate MPs.
According to the Constitution of Kenya Review Act, PSC cannot make major alterations to the Draft but can present it to the House with recommendations. Following their retreat in Naivasha last month during which it agreed on contentious issues that could have derailed the review process.
Unlike in the run-up to the 2005 referendum, the current review process has been free from potentially divisive proposals except on abortion and the stage at which life begins, as well as recall clauses for MPs.
Already, a three day retreat for MPs is planned for this week in Naivasha to seek consensus on pending issues.
The retreat will kick off on Friday and end on Sunday.