NAIROBI Kenya, Aug 7 – President Mwai Kibaki on Tuesday opened the newly refurbished Kenya National Assembly Debating Chamber and urged MPs to focus on development in the remaining term before the March 4 General Election.
He assured of a smooth transition as he opened the 350-seater Chamber, which was re-done at a cost of Sh950 million.
“I also re-commit myself to guaranteeing that Kenya has a smooth transition to the leadership that they will vote into office next March,” President Kibaki said.
He emphasised that Members of Parliament should ensure that the current House goes down in history for its role in uplifting the quality of the lives of Kenyan workers, farmers, business people, youth and children.
“Let us use the time left to entrench reforms and to put in place structures that future leaders will use to transform Kenya into a haven of prosperity as envisioned under our Vision 2030,” President Kibaki said.
The President expressed optimism that the newly refurbished chamber will greatly aid the legislative and representative roles of Members of Parliament.
He said the government will work closely with Parliament to facilitate implementation of the next phase of the modernisation programme, including the preparation of facilities necessary for the Senate as well as increased staff numbers.
The President noted that the completion of the refurbishment project marks an important milestone for the people of Kenya, as Parliament is one of the three State organs to which the sovereign power of the people of Kenya is delegated.
“It is, therefore, an institution for governing as well as defending the rights of Kenyans, particularly the underprivileged,” the President said.
While the facilities in the refurbished chamber will aid Members of Parliament to fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Kenya more effectively, the President reminded the legislators that their character and conduct will be of more significance.
He said: “We must remember that we have a responsibility, not only to our constituents, but to the entire nation. We should set examples of hard work, integrity and nation building to our fellow citizens.”
National Assembly Speaker Kenneth Marende called on Kenyans to give preference to locally made goods and materials as their contribution to building and branding Kenya; citing the seats in the refurbished chamber were made by the Kenya Prisons Department at half the market costs.
He said the Parliamentary Service Commission was working with a budget of Sh167 million but the Prisions industries charged Sh74 million.
There is also a seating capacity of 600 in the media, public, diplomats’ and speaker’s galleries. The horse-shoe design is borrowed from the German Bundestag and the Tanzanian Parliament.
The Chamber has catered for the anticipated increase of members following the creation of 80 additional constituencies and 47 women representatives from counties.
The retractable seats, which cost Sh200, 000 each will be numbered and labeled with the MPs’ names.
The new picturesque horse-shoe design comes with state-of-the-art technology which includes a public address system, electronic voting system and computer monitors as well as electronic buzzers.
Members of Parliament will now press the buzzers to alert the Speaker whenever they want to contribute to the business of the House.
The Chamber allows the Speaker to disable the microphone of a member who breaches House rules which include making false allegations or raising frivolous points of order.
Every seat is installed with a computer monitor to enable intra-communication within the Chamber.
President Kibaki used the ceremony to urge legislators to use the remaining time of their parliamentary term to improve the lives of Kenyans.
“After serving the people of Kenya in Parliament for 50 years,” the President said. “I can confidently state that the destiny and fortunes of the nation depends a great deal on the character and composition of Parliament.”
He said; “only diligent and selfless men and women of integrity who have interests of Kenyans at heart should be elected. The power to determine the destiny of our nation is in our vote. Let us use that power wisely.”
President Kibaki also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to providing resources for devolved government as stipulated in the Constitution, saying devolution is here to stay.
“Devolution is critical and must be fully supported by this Parliament that should put in place the necessary structures that will guarantee a smooth transition to the next form of government,” President Kibaki said.
The Head of State, however, emphasised that devolution does not stop Kenya from being a unitary state, adding that national resources must continue to be used for the benefit of all Kenyans.
“With the discovery of oil and other mineral resources, mechanisms should be put in place to ensure that locals benefit while the national good is put into place for the benefit of future and current generations,” the President said.
He added that there are valuable lessons to be learnt from the initial devolution of C.D.F funds through which Government has channeled over sh100 billion to the grassroots in the last nine years.
Marende at the sametime added they also plan to build a new office block for MPs. He said the PSC intends to acquire Harambee Sacco and the Ukulima Sacco buildings for the projects.
He said; “The project will include expansion of catering facilities. And before we wind up and pretty soon, to construct a multipurpose office block that will constitute a Parliamentary Annex with offices for Members and committee rooms.”
Marende said the Old Chambers will undergo similar refurbishments to accommodate the Senate.
Finance Minister Njeru Githae assured Parliament that Treasury was ready to provide the funds. President Kibaki also gave Parliament a pen and original copy of the constitution that he signed on August 27, 2010.