, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 13 – Members of Parliament now want to use a Sh1.9 billion shortfall in the Legislature’s budget in this financial year as another avenue to corner Finance Minister Uhuru Kenyatta and shoot down this year’s Budget.
The issue was raised at a meeting between the Clerk of the National Assembly and the House Budget Committee on Tuesday.
Isiolo South MP Abdul Bahari who sits in the Committee said unless the Minister explained why he reduced a request of Sh9 billion by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC), then the Finance Bill will not be approved by the House.
The Clerk of the National Assembly Patrick Gichohi, who is the PSC’s Secretary and its Vice Chairman Walter Nyambati said The Treasury ignored Parliament’s request to “sit down and discuss the Sh9 billion Budget proposal that was chopped to Sh7.1 billion for the 2010-2011 fiscal year”.
“We sought to meet him over that but we couldn’t. We were shocked when we saw he had reduced the Budget. This reduction will affect all sections,” said Mr Nyambati. “If he felt that he couldn’t meet our proposals, he should have talked to us so that we see where we can adjust.”
Mr Gichohi said the deficit had left a Sh316 million hole in the committee budgets, meaning Parliament’s oversight role will be compromised.
“We’ll have to re-arrange our committee operations,” said the Clerk.
He said a Sh600 million deficit for new office block will condemn MPs to the status quo “where they meet in the lounge, the corridors or in the dining room.”
“It’s not conducive, it is not proper,” protested Mr Gichohi.
The Continental House has office space for 198 constituencies and the first floor library has also been converted to make room for additional constituencies.
Other MPs have their offices within Parliament Buildings and at County Hall. The House has also rented office space at the Harambee Sacco Plaza. The Parliamentary Service Commission had budgeted the Sh600 million for new offices.
The Budget Committee chairman Elias Mbau and members said the Treasury’s refusal to give Parliament money was an extension of the wars between the Executive and the Legislature.
The chair of PSC’s Finance sub-committee Zakayo Cheruiyot lamented that Parliament only got less than one percent of the Budget, yet it’s the third arm of government.
“Attempts to set up a Parliamentary Fund have been frozen by the Treasury,” said Mr Cheruiyot who added that the fund was meant to take up the millions of donor money that are being dangled to Parliament.
The Clerk told the House Committee that Parliament had written to the Finance Minister seeking to set up a fund, but the minister had not responded.
“We’ve written to him to gazette the fund regulations, but he’s not done so. He’s indicated that he’s willing,” said Mr Nyambati.
The House Committee also cornered the Clerk over errors in the Budget with regard to discrepancies in the number of authorised staff vis-à-vis the ones employed.
But the Clerk said there was a problem, which Parliament accountants alluded to a difficulty in changing the Budget codes that are submitted to the Treasury, ostensibly because computers usually reject item codes not authorised by the Treasury.