NAIROBI, Kenya, May 7 – There was a standoff in Parliament on Tuesday afternoon after the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) withdrew its members from all committees which have been constituted.
The row revolves around the control of the watchdog Public Accounts (PAC) and Public Investments (PIC) committees.
A delay in the composition of the House committees will slow down the operations of the National Assembly, including the budget process.
The budget estimates tabled in the House last week ought to have been forwarded to the relevant departmental committees for scrutiny within 21 days, and thereafter forwarded to the House budget committee for approval.
The opposition MPs insisted they must be given additional slots in the two oversight committees for them to participate in the House transactions, leading to a major altercation that degenerated to name-calling and shouting.
But despite the pullout, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has ordered that committees will continue transacting business with only Jubilee members, raising another storm from CORD MPs.
Muturi had ordered that membership lists of 24 yet-to-be constituted committees be tabled before the House as long as they met the quorum of 19 members needed to make up a committee. Jubilee being the majority party already has 18 slots in each plus those of small parties it has signed coalition agreements with.
This means that Jubilee has the required majority to conduct committee business.
Leader of Majority Coalition Aden Duale and Nairobi County Women Representative Rachael Shebesh blamed the CORD leadership for holding back the House from transacting business.
But Minority Leader Francis Nyenze and his Deputy Jakoyo Midiwo remained adamant that they will not present names to the House unless their demands are met.
Speaking after a Parliamentary Group meeting chaired by CORD principals Raila Odinga, Kalonzo Musyoka and Moses Wetangula, Minority Coalition Whip Gideon Mung’aro said CORD must be allowed to head and have majority members in the Public Investments Committee and Public Accounts Committee for it to participate in any business in House.
“CORD will not cede ground on the membership and chairmanship of the public watchdog committees, the Public Accounts Committee and the Public Investments Committee,” Mung’aro said.
“CORD is dissatisfied with the manner in which Jubilee is using unorthodox means by using its numerical strength to suppress the Minority in the House. We want to state here that it will not be business as usual any longer, CORD will not cede grounds on the majority and chairmanship of PAC and PIC.”
During the proceedings, Nyando MP Fred Outa was ordered out of the House for disorderly conduct and will miss three sittings.
Other committees affected by the CORD’s decision include the Committee on Selections which places members to various committees and the House Rules and Procedure Committee which already had membership from all the parties.
The standoff started last week on Thursday after the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader were given some more time to deliberate and come up with lists of members of the various House meetings.
The Jubilee alliance has already tabled its list while the CORD side argues that it cannot table the names until their position on the two crucial committees has been accepted.
The majority side’s argument is that the Standing Orders only provide for the composition of House committees on the basis of parliamentary strength.
The CORD team’s argument is that the oversight committees can only effectively work, if a majority of its members are from the opposition benches.