Senate kicks off referendum bid to assert authority

September 24, 2015 4:31 am
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 Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who chaired the committee said the Bill would, “provide the necessary measures to ensure the effective discharge by the Senate of its legislative and oversight role under the Constitution/file
Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who chaired the committee said the Bill would, “provide the necessary measures to ensure the effective discharge by the Senate of its legislative and oversight role under the Constitution/file
NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 24 – The Senate will be adopting a popular initiative in its bid to amend the Constitution to clearly outline its role and give itself more powers to enable it defend devolution.

Addressing journalists after tabling the Bill on the floor of the House, Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen who chaired the committee said the Bill would, “provide the necessary measures to ensure the effective discharge by the Senate of its legislative and oversight role under the Constitution.”

The General Suggestion for the Draft Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2015 seeks to first clarify the roles of the two houses which have mostly been engaged in supremacy wars that have threatened to cripple the legislative process.

Some of its ambitious proposals are to give the Senate the power to have a say in the appointment of state officers with a direct bearing on the Executive while those with a direct mandate over the National government will be vetted by the National Assembly.

Those targeted by the Senate are, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Chairs and members of Constitutional commissions, the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice, the Auditor General, the Inspector General of the National Police Service and the Controller of Budget.

Cabinet Secretaries, the Attorney General, Secretary to the Cabinet, Principal Secretaries, High Commissioners, Ambassadors, Diplomatic and Consular representatives according to the Bill will be vetted by the National Assembly.

“The draft also provides for the passage of all Bills by both Houses of Parliament so that Bills would become law only after they are passed by both Houses,” said Murkomen.

If the Bill sails through, the Senate will have a role in budget making and will get a chance to push for the increment of the minimum allocation of revenue to county governments from 15 percent to 40 percent.

This coming at a time when Kenyans are questioning the utilization of public funds by County governments as latest media reports have shown exaggerated amounts spent on projects and initiatives that do not directly benefit the taxpayers.

The Senators also want to be consulted when approving the deployment of the Defence Forces within Kenya saying the matter affected them as most of the areas under duress were essentially counties.

The Bill proposes that both houses participate in the passing of bills and also provides for the joint referral by the two Speakers of bills for Presidential assent.

“Both speakers will have to sign a certificate to the President. There will not be a situation where one Speaker rushes to the House on the Hill to present Bills for assent alone because both must participate,” stated Murkomen.

Members of the County Assemblies will also have a chance to control monies allocated to the Assembly to carry out its activities as the Bill proposes the County Assembly Service Fund which confers to the Assemblies financial independence.

This prevents scenarios where the County Assemblies have been ‘arm twisted’ by the Executive so as to get fund for their programs.

On the question of the restrictive timelines considering that the next general election is just over a year away, the Senators said they were ready to hit the road running and were hoping to have the referendum within six to nine months.

Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr, a member of the select committee did not dismiss the idea of merging with some of the already publicized plebiscite calls particularly the Council of Governors’ ‘Pesa Mashinani’ saying as long their concerns were in line with theirs, merging the two would help reach the objective as opposed to having several referenda.

Murkomen however added that the referendum could also be held during the election where a seventh ballot box would be added and Kenyans would vote on the referendum question.

“It can happen in January 2017 but if we have technical hitches in collection of signatures it go to August 2017 – but it is possible there will be an overlap with the next elections,” he said.

Senators welcomed the committees report with calls that be process be hastened so as to ensure devolution which is just five years old is felt by Kenyans.
“We must shed off the political skin so that we can succeed,” said Mutula Kilonzo Jnr.

“Let us roll up our sleeves so that in the 3-6 months we are done with it,” said Billow Kerrow (Mandera).

“Let us cement the foundation of the Senators office, we want those who come after us to appreciate the work we have done,” added Martha Wangari (nominated).

Nandi Senator Stephen Sang who also pronounced himself on the matter said it was up to the current Senate to leave the institution stronger than they found it.

The draft Bill is expected to come up for debate next week.

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