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MPs and Senators to get iPads, new Sh5b office block

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU
Updated Sun, January 19th 2014 at 00:00 GMT +3
Ipad
                                                  Ipad                PHOTO: COURTESY

By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU

The Parliamentary Service Commission has advertised for 450 iPads for MPs and senior staff.

The gadgets will be used by the 349 MPs and 67 senators to access the parliamentary timetable, Order Paper, motions, Bills and other publications as soon as they are uploaded on the parliamentary website or sent to their mailboxes.

At current market rates, an iPad costs between Sh55,000 and Sh70,000. Therefore the 450 iPads will cost the PSC between Sh25 million and Sh32 million. There will be additional funds for Internet connectivity to allow MPs to download documents and use the machines within the precincts of the House. The bids for the tender close on January 31. It is expected that the MPs will get their iPads by the time they return from their recess.

The iPads come almost a year after the MPs got desktop computers for office use. PSC Secretary Jeremiah Nyegenye, who advertised for the tender, told The Standard on Sunday the iPads will help the House save on the use of paper and consequently save money.

Huge paperwork

Kenya becomes the second country in East Africa to buy tablets for its lawmakers after Uganda did the same for its 375 MPs. The House of Commons in the United Kingdom has also bought iPads for the representatives.

The administration of Parliament uses at least 1,000 reams of paper  — 500,000 sheets — every week the National Assembly and the Senate are in session.

The huge paperwork is used to print and photocopy the Order Paper – daily schedule of business; notices; statements; Bills, petitions, committee reports; Speaker’s rulings, memorandum, proposed amendments to Bills and nearly every other document that is tabled in the House.

Homa Bay Town MP Gladys Wanga, who is also a commissioner with the PSC, let the cat out of the bag in December when she notified her colleagues that the commission had approved the use of iPads, and that they would all get one.

“This will make life easy for honourable members because even in terms of getting the correct Standing Order that you may want to refer to, you only need to do a search on the Standing Orders on the relevant point.,” Wanga said on December 5 while contributing to the debate on the proposed review of Standing Orders.

New offices

The MPs will also be trained on how to use the gadgets.

The call for iPads came just a day after the MPs were notified that a Sh5.8 billion office block will be constructed next to Continental House, where their offices are situated.

PSC chairman and Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi, said once the office block is complete, the MPs will move out of their current offices at the KICC and other private offices rented for them. The new office block, County Hall, Protection House, Parliament Buildings and Harambee Sacco Plaza will form an exclusive parliamentary zone that will be known as the Parliamentary Square.

The building will have dedicated tunnels exclusive for use by MPs to access County Hall, the main Parliament Buildings and Continental House.

“The project was conceived four years ago and we have now handed over the site to the contractor. MPs will be inconvenienced, but they must bear with the commission as we try to make sure that there are adequate offices for MPs, staff and committee rooms,” said Muturi as he handed the site to China Jiangxi International Ltd on Thursday.

Alan Simu, the lead consultant, said the building will have four underground floors and 27 floors above.

There are 349 MPs and 67 senators, with at least two staff members each. The House has 600 employees and with the increased mandate, it is set to recruit more people to help in research, library work and records management. There will also be more committee clerks who will be hired to help out with the 30 committees.

 “The dire need for office accommodation is well-known, so the urgency of this project cannot be overemphasised. We believe legislative work should not be hindered by issues of accommodation,” said Mr Nyegenye.

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