Kenya

Fireworks expected in Parliament over media Bill, report on Charity Ngilu and NCPB

Majority Leader Aden Duale. (Photo:Standard)

By Geoffrey Mosoku

Nairobi, Kenya: Controversial debates, including another contentious media Bill and a report on the conduct of Lands Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu are expected to spark off fireworks in the House Tuesday.

Another hot issue that has divided the House is a report censuring an MP and top officials over a questionable contract that nearly led to the auctioning of the national grain stores.

Tuesday, the House opens debate on a motion for the adoption of the report by joint committees on the recent irregular appointments in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development tabled last Thursday.

Ngilu censure

Ruling Jubilee coalition leaders are today expected to hold talks prior to discussions in the House on the report seeking to censure Ngilu.

Political intrigues surrounding the issue boiled over when Ngilu alleged betrayal by top leaders in the Jubilee administration, whom she claims wants her kicked out of the docket.

Sunday, Majority Leader Aden Duale said the Jubilee position will be known Monday after wide consultations within government on the report touching on Ngilu.

“As Jubilee we will make our position known tomorrow (Monday) after consulting since now the motion will be moved on Tuesday,” Duale told The Standard Sunday. 

Against the backdrop of spiraling insecurity, the House will debate amendments to the National Police Service Commission Act that the opposition CORD has protested are designed to install a powerful police chief.

Lobby groups have also warned changes envisaged under the National Police Service Commission (Amendment) Bill include a significant reduction in the operational independence of the police.

In a petition to Parliament, petitioners protested the Bill proposed to bar the Commission from the appointment process of Inspector General of Police and take away its mandate to recruit, appoint, transfer and promote members of the police service.

MPs will also conclude debate on the adoption of the special report of the Public Investment Committee (PIC) on the contract between the National Cereals and Produce Board and M/s Erad Supplies and General Contracts Limited for the supply of white maize.

Last week, an attempt to amend the committee report to shield an MP, two other directors of the private firm and other top officials blacklisted over allegations of corruption related to the multibillion-shilling maize importation tender failed.

And even before the public outrage sparked by last Thursday’s passage of a Bill establishing a government-appointed tribunal with sweeping powers to crack down on media freedom dies down, MPs are at it again this week.

Media bill

They are set to introduce amendments to the Media Council Bill that, if passed, risks turning Kenya into a police state.

MPs have given themselves the power to determine the members of the Media Council of Kenya, and have given the government-controlled council absolute powers to ban local and media houses that do not toe the line from doing business in Kenya.

They say the council will have the right to ban “any publication that contains any article, caricature, photograph, report, notes, writing, sound, music, statement” that is “in any manner prejudicial to or likely to be prejudicial to public order, morality, security or that is likely to alarm public opinion or that is likely to be contrary to any law or is otherwise prejudicial to or is likely to be prejudicial to public interest or national interest.”

The Media Council Bill is scheduled for discussion on Tuesday.

Sunday, Deputy President William Ruto spoke out against the draconian law passed last week, saying the government is not intent on muzzling media freedom.

Ugenya MP David Ochieng said they would not support amendments that seek to gag the media.

Listed top on the agenda when the House resumes tomorrow afternoon, discussions on the report touching on Ngilu will be the first proceedings against a Cabinet Secretary. 

House Speaker Justin Muturi last Thursday directed Lands Committee chairman Alex Muiru to file a motion to transform the report into a motion from a response to an ordinary question.  The motion is for the adoption of the report of the Joint Departmental Committee on Lands, and the Select Committee on Delegated Legislation on the recent irregular appointments in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development.

Committee report

Delegated Committee chairman William Cheptumo said MPs will now have an opportunity to either adopt, reject or amend the report.

“The joint committee presented its report, which is the property of the whole house,” Cheptumo said.

“Our aim will be to seek to understand how the Ministry of Lands and the National Land Commission can work harmoniously in addressing the question of land titles since any stalemate in the land sector can have adverse effects on the economy as land is a factor of production,” he added.

Cheptumo also said they will address a question raised by Mbooni MP Kisoi Munyao on the legality of the gazette notice by the land agency that appointed its chairman, Muhumad Swazuri, and CEO Tom Chavangi to sign titles.

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