, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 22 – The Supremacy battle between the Senate and the National Assembly came to the fore on Thursday afternoon after Speakers and legislators from both Houses differed on the involvement of the Senate in legislating Public Finance Management (Uwezo Fund) Regulations.
In his communication to Senators, Speaker Ekwe Ethuro said that he expected the regulations which were approved by the National Assembly on Wednesday to be forwarded to the Senate for consideration following the Supreme Court’s advisory opinion that the Senate has a role in legislating.
“The regulation having been approved by the National Assembly, the concurrence of the Senate will now be sought and I already have the confirmation from the Speaker of the National Assembly that will be done,” Ethuro said during Thursday’s Senate sitting.
He added: “Any regulation made otherwise than in the manner set out in Section 205 of the Public Finance Management Act will be inconsistent with the law and therefore null and void. Additionally any such regulation can also be challenged as having been made outside of the ambit of the powers given to the Cabinet Secretary under the Act.”
He was backed by Majority Leader in the Senate Kindiki Kithure and Mombasa Senator Hassan Omar Hassan who both criticised the National Assembly of constantly trying to undermine their role in the legislative process.
“We want to say that should there be a problem the Senate will not entertain anything that demeans the status of this House from any quarter,” warned Kindiki.
“We hope that practical steps will be followed so that we can discharge the responsibilities of this House, amicably in a manner that defines the decorum and seniority that this House is placed both as a political fact and as a constitutional reality,” said the Senator Omar who had requested the Speaker’s statement on the matter.
This after the Senate Speaker had claimed that the National Assembly has so far debated five bills which have an implication on the County before consulting with the Senate.
He cited the Matrimonial Property Bill, Media Council Bill, Police Service Bill as among the laws.
Senators James Orengo (Siaya), Kiraitu Murungi (Meru) and Charles Keter (Kericho) demanded that the Senate should not wait for the regulations to be brought to them but instead initiate a fresh process.
“We have seen consistent attempts to reduce the Senate into mere political flower girls,” Murungi added. “We must stand firm and resist all attempts to reduce the constitutional rights of the Senate.”
“The leadership of this House, not necessarily the Speaker – it could be even the Majority Leader or the Minority Leader – should talk to the Attorney General and advise him of the decision of the Supreme Court, that decision is very clear, because it sets out a conditional precedent so by the time the bill is being read for first reading in the National Assembly without consulting you, Mr. Speaker, there is already a violation of part 4 of the Constitution,” Orengo stated.
Speaker Ethuro however, downplayed a face-off saying he had consulted his ‘brother in the National Assembly’ who had agreed to forward the regulation to the Senate.
But in the National Assembly, Speaker Justin Muturi flatly ruled that the Senators had no business working on the regulations governing the distribution of Sh6 billion to empower the youth and women through affordable enterprise loans.
Suba MP John Mbadi stirred debate on the matter after requested Muturi to guide the lower House on the matter which will reawaken the stalemate between the two houses forcing the Senate to move to the Supreme Court to get an advisory opinion.
Muturi intimated that the House was not bound by the Supreme Court finding because it did not overturn the legality of the Division of Revenue Bill.
“Nobody has faulted the Division of Revenue Act 2013, so even as people express their opinion, we want to know who has declared that unconstitutional for having been passed by this Assembly,” posed Muturi.
“If anybody had cobwebs in their minds I think now this matter must be put to rest.”
Leader of Majority Coalition in the National Assembly Aden Duale urged his National Assembly colleagues to treat the latest overture by the Senators as a diversionary tactics.
“They want to go to the Supreme Court over the Uwezo Fund, how many trips will they make there?” Duale asked. “(It can’t be that) every time you have issues with the National Assembly you look for an Advisory Opinion. That is not the reason as to why Kenyans created the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court has other better functions to offer to the country.”
The Senate made a resolution in July to seek an opinion from the Supreme Court, after the National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi ruled that the senators had no business working on the crucial Bill that divides revenues between the national and county governments.
The National Assembly went ahead and ignored Senate’s input to the Bill, and sent it to the Head of State, President Uhuru Kenyatta, for assent. It is after the President appended his signature to the Bill that the senators went to court to seek a clarification on how the process should be done.
In a ruling issued on November 1, the Senate won the case after the highest court in the country ruled that it had a role in legislating on the Division of Revenue Bill.