By Stephen Makabila and Jacob Ng’etich
Kenya: Power consolidation and safe-guarding the shaky devolution process in the 47 counties have been listed top among the priorities of the Senate that has now fully settled down for business, after formation of all the 11 committees that followed a two-day induction in Naivasha over the weekend.
It’s now an open secret that senators feel the 10th Parliament, which developed their Standing Orders weakened the Senate, and the remedy is to amend the law to strengthen the Upper House.
“There is no way the National Assembly is going to veto Bills passed by the Senate. Amendments to our Standing Orders could come early to give the Senate the clout it deserves,” says Elgeyo Marakwet Senate Kipchumba Murkomen.
Taita-Taveta Senator Dan Mwanzo, also, says the Standing Orders that were developed by the 10th Parliament have to be fine-tuned for effectiveness of the Senate.
“After fine-tuning the Standing Orders, nothing will stop the Senate from ensuring the success of the devolved units. It’s our burden to ensure county governments take off well and succeed,” Mwanzo told The Standard at the Naivasha meeting.
Mombasa County Senator Omar Hassan had on the first day of the Naivasha meeting said it was only logical that Senate comes second in command after the Presidency, given its oversight role.
Hassan said the 10th Parliament deliberately watered down the functions and role of the Senate to undermine it.
“The Senate should take its rightful role and position in the hierarchy of power. It comes second after the Presidency, but MPs in the 10th Parliament deliberately undermined it,” he said.
Senate Speaker David Ekwe Ethuro argued that the only way to give the Senate political legitimacy is for senators to appreciate their role in matters of national importance and the place of that House in the country’s governance.
Article 96 of the Constitution provides that the Senate will participate in making laws by considering, debating and approving Bills concerning counties.
The Senate also has the mandate to determine the allocation of revenue among counties (Article 217) and exercise oversight role over the allocation of national revenue to the county governments.
The Senate will also participate in the oversight of State officers and will have the final say in a resolution of the National Assembly to impeach the President and the Deputy President.
At the Naivasha retreat, Ethuro challenged senators to initiate new legislations on the floor of the Senate, which he termed ‘a centre of national equilibrium’.
Last week, Senate Majority leader, Kithure Kindiki had pointed out the heavy legislative work pending before the House.
Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale says the most urgent work for the Senate would be to clear constitutional Bills whose deadline is August 27, this year.
“Such Bills have to be fast-tracked. Prof Kindiki spoke as a Leader of Government Business in the Senate, but we know such Bills are urgent and have to be dealt with as a matter of priority,” added Dr Khalwale.