Senators determined to steamroll referendum

June 17, 2013 3:38 pm
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Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula is among those championing a referendum. Photo/ FILE
Bungoma Senator Moses Wetangula is among those championing a referendum. Photo/ FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 17 – Senators and County Governors have embarked on collecting one million signatures from Kenyans as they seek to push through a referendum on the fate of the Senate.

Speaking to Capital FM News on telephone, Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula said that the exercise which kicked off over the weekend will require each of the 47 Governors to collect 50,000 signatures towards what he terms as a fight to save the county governments.

“We expect to collect 2.3 million signatures by the time the exercise is done, because we must show that the country is against an attempt to undermine devolution by those who believe in the centralist system of governance,” he said.

The Bungoma Senator said this is in line with last week’s resolution by Senators and Governors to amend Article 95 of the Constitution that gives the National Assembly veto powers over the Division of Revenue Bill.

The elected County heads said President Uhuru Kenyatta acted unconstitutionally when he assented to the Bill and claimed there is a ploy by the Executive to frustrate the implementation of the devolution process.

The Senate had increased the budget of county governments from Sh210 billion to Sh258 billion; but the National Assembly ignored the amendment and reverted to the original figure before sending the Bill to the President for his approval.

Constitutional expert Bobby Mkangi said Kenyans should be ready to go for a referendum this year, if the Senator succeeds in gaining the one million signatures.

He says the manner in which the public handles the Senate’s initiative will determine how the speed in which the Assemblies and both Houses of Parliament will deal with the Bill.

Mkangi stated; “Public pressure might mean that the County Assemblies expedite handling the Bill in less than three months, we might even see the County Assemblies approving the Bill in 20 days and passing it on to the National Assembly and the Senate”

“We will have to see if the National Assembly remains united because we have seen the Senators driving a united front.”

The constitutional expert said that popularity for the draft Bill will also determine how the National Assembly members will approach the matter and subsequent referendum.

He told Capital News that some MPs – fearing to be perceived as supporting a plot to frustrate county governments- are likely to jump ship and back the Senators in their initiative.

“We will have to see if the National Assembly remains united because we have seen the Senators driving a united front.”

Mkangi who was part of the Committee of Experts who drafted the Constitution said the Articles 95, 96 and 111 of the national law guarantees the Senate’s participation in any matters that touch on the functions and operations of the 47 counties.

“The Articles on Public Finance show that there was intent of both Houses to be involved in how counties should be run and how Senators will ensure funds are received at their respective Counties,” he said.
He however says that that the debate around the Division of Revenue Bill has been clouded by the power plays.

“Why did the National Assembly do away with the recommendations of the Senate if indeed they were concerned for the wananchi?” posed Mkangi, “One would have expected them to say since this will help our people at the county, we will cut it down by Sh10 or Sh20 billion.”

“But there was really no constructive debate. It was a debate inspired by other reasons, not an objective and constructive debate to help the people.”

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