Kenya, Feb 22 – Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim has ruled that the Legal Affairs committee has the power to make recommendations on the boundaries report that was prepared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), before MPs debate it in Parliament.
He made the ruling after MPs raised concerns about the committee’s mandate on Wednesday, claiming that it had made significant changes to the IEBC report.
Although he noted that the committee was well within its mandate, Maalim explained that the recommendations were not binding to the House and could be rejected, adopted or altered.
“It is not unconstitutional for the committee to make recommendations and for the House to make resolutions which can be taken into account by the IEBC,” he said.
He also dismissed concerns that Parliament risked undermining the independence of the IEBC saying the resolutions made by Parliament, after debating the report together with the committee’s report, were not obligatory on the IEBC.
“The resolutions could be rejected by the IEBC and they are therefore not in conflict with its functional independence. The commission can accept them or reject them; either in totality or in part,” he noted.
Maalim however added that there was need to get a legal interpretation of what the law meant when it says that the IEBC has to take into account the recommendations of Parliament before gazetting its final report.
“The words ‘taking into account’ must be interrogated. No doubt the courts will pronounce themselves on the meaning of these words if the matter arises before them,” he said.
The question on the mandate of the Legal Affairs committee saw Members of Parliament engage in a heated debate on Wednesday morning with Gwassi lawmaker John Mbadi accusing it of overstepping its mandate by altering the IEBC boundaries report.
The debate was kicked off by Government Chief Whip Jakoyo Midiwo who sought the Speaker’s direction over the matter saying it was important to clear the air on how far the committee could go in terms of amending the report.
“Many members are calling me and I think it’s good to put the record straight. Members are at war because the committee, whose role is just to look at the report and table their yes or no, are already changing the boundaries,” he claimed.
Mbadi argued that the committee members were amending the report to serve their own political interests.
“I am one of those Members of Parliament who have complained. When you hear that part of your constituency is being hived by a parliamentary committee to become part of another constituency then you are supposed to be worried and ask who has given that committee such unnecessary powers,” cited Mbadi.
Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohammed however dismissed the concerns saying the Legal Affairs committee had the right to interrogate the report and make recommendations as it deemed fit.
Mohammed, who sits on the committee, also noted that the debate surrounding the Bill was pre-emptive as the report had not even been tabled before the House.
“Midiwo supported this Parliament dealing with the Ligale report for political purposes and now he is opposed to Parliament dealing with the IEBC report for political purposes. We cannot accept that,” he said amidst applause.
Legal Affairs committee Vice Chairman Njoroge Baiya also assured the House that his committee would table the original report together with its recommendations, as required by the law.
Committee member Isaac Ruto (Chepalungu) also asked his colleagues to allow the committee conclude its work and table the report to Parliament.
“This point of order anticipates debate and it is not in order; unless that matter is before the House it is against the rules to anticipate debate,” he said.
Ikolomani MP Boni Khalwale also faulted his colleagues for misinterpreting the law saying the Legal Affairs committee was well within its mandate.
He explained that the committee was required to analyse the report and make its recommendations before tabling the two to Parliament for debate.
“We must be extremely clear on what the committee attempts to do. What was the purpose of the report going to the committee? Isn’t it to make recommendations while presenting the report to Parliament before the recommendations are taken to the IEBC?” he asked.
Mbadi had also accused the Legal Affairs Committee of undermining the independence of the IEBC but Mohammed argued that it was a State institution which was subject to parliamentary proceedings.
“The commissions are State organs; they are paid out of the State coffers and all State Organs are subject to the oversight of Parliament,” he observed.
Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo also accused Mbadi of using the debate to serve his individual interests.