NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 14 – The government was on Tuesday forced to postpone debate on three Bills crucial to making county governments operational, after sensing that backbench MPs would shoot them down.
Leader of Government Business in Parliament Kalonzo Musyoka withdrew a Motion that sought Parliament’s leave to by-pass requirements of the Standing Orders and which would have seen the Bills tabled and debated on the same day.
Musyoka however convinced MPs to approve another Motion through which he wanted to introduce the Bills in the House before expiry of a mandatory 14-day period since their publication.
“I am trying to avoid a confrontation with the backbench MPs because I am sure they were sharpening their knives,” said the VP while beating the retreat.
The Parliamentary session – the first in the year after the Christmas break – had been preceded by intense lobbying by backbenchers who sought numbers against the Motion to allow debate on the County Governments’ Bill by exempting it from the 14 day scrutiny by the relevant departmental committee.
The legislators accused the government of attempting to use Parliament as a rubber stamp.
There are six pieces of legislation with constitutional timelines that must be passed before February 27 at the latest.
In seconding the Motion, the VP’s Deputy in the House, Trade Minister Amos Kimunya urged MPs to make use of the special session called to enact the legislations on devolution and land reform bills.
“I do believe it will be a productive year, and the productivity will start with the acceleration of the Bills,” said Kimunya.
MPs William Ruto, Ekwe Ethuro and John Mbadi said that Parliament would not abandon its role to scrutinise the laws, arguing that those passed previously were found to contain flaws.
“We have seen the contradictions that are in the Elections and Political Parties Act which were occasioned by the rushing of the Bills through this House,” Ruto said.
“But this time, we are going to go through the clauses of these Bills with a fine toothcomb so that we ensure they comply with the Constitution and that public participation is at the centre of the governance of our country.”
The Chepalungu MP minced no words when he described the Executive’s manner of transacting business in the House as “lazy” and even accused them of trying to compromise the quality of the legislation by tabling Bills late, in order to make MPs pass them with errors.
“The Constitution implementation deadline was quite clear to the government the day we passed the Constitution. Now they are bringing to Parliament a Bill to pass within three days,” he argued.
Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara and his Ikolomani counterpart Boni Khalwale said the House would provide an opportunity for the two Deputy Prime Ministers to argue their ideas about devolution and the financing of the county governments.
“We have noticed great debate between the offices of DPM taking positions that are worrying and therefore providing fodder for unnecessary public acrimony,” said Imanyara.