MPs back as House enters homestretch

NATIONAL |

The session that ends in December will be the second last before the MPs seek a fresh mandate. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Members of the National Assembly resume session today amid heightened campaigns for 2022 elections as the 12th Parliament enters the homestretch.

The session that ends in December will be the second last before the MPs seek a fresh mandate. The House is racing against time to pass Bills as some MPs seek to introduce fresh proposals that could influence next year’s polls.

Today, Dagoreti North MP Simba Arati plans to move a motion seeking to have the implementation of the Finance Act 2018, the Tax Act 2018, the Tax Laws (Amendment) Act 2020 and the revised rates for excise duty adjustment for inflation that has pushed the prices of fuel up suspended.

Energy and Petroleum Regulatory Authority (EPRA) last week reviewed the prices upwards, making petrol to retail at all-time high of Sh135 per litre.

The review has since triggered public protests with various leaders demanding for intervention by the government to cushion the taxpayers.

Arati noted that consumers are heavily burdened with each having to pay at least nine different taxes on fuel products which constitute the biggest share of final pump prices.

High fuel prices

The Motion seeks to have the House adjourn and debate the high fuel prices.

“…bearing in mind the high cost of living in the country, the high prices of fuel have been effected at a time when Kenyans are grappling with adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic that have dented their earnings. This will also have ripple effects on the critical sectors of the economy,” states the MP in the Motion.

“The hike has also rekindled debate on the high taxation of petroleum products and the work of the Petroleum Development Levy that is supposed to cushion Kenyans,” he adds.

Arati will be pushing to have VAT suspended, which has gone up to 9.98 per cent on petrol from eight per cent.

At the same time, the Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) chaired by Ndaragwa lawmaker Jeremiah Kioni will be seeking to introduce a proposed Bill that aims at creating the position of Prime Minister, two deputies as well as two deputy president slots.

The committee is racing against time to have the proposal ready for a referendum alongside the August 2022 General Election.

It, however, remains unclear how the Kioni team seeks to wiggle around the High Court ruling that stopped the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) by spelling out conditions for amending the Constitution.

The judges ruled that some clauses could not be amended without conducting civic education, public participation, debates in legislative assemblies and referendum.

National Assembly Minority Leader John Mbadi explained that under the current dispensation, Parliament does not dissolve and can sit up to the election day.

He, however, said that the House may adjourn after dispensing with next year’s national budget for members to proceed for campaigns.

“Nowadays, there is no dissolution of Parliament. We are free to sit until the elections are held,” said Mbadi, adding that “We may adjourn the sitting after the budget in June.”

The House will also be seeking to pass the Referendum Bill, 2020 that spells out the procedure of conducting a plebiscite.

The Bill is set to go through the Committee of the Whole House, where members scrutinize clause by clause before it can be approved.

Pending issues

Also pending is the implementation of Election law on degree requirement for those contesting for parliamentary and ward seats.

Already the political class has ganged up against the tough regulations in a well-choreographed scheme to frustrate the new requirements.

Implementation of section 22 of the Elections Act 2012 that makes a degree a mandatory requirement has since triggered court battles, proposed amendments to the Act and a petition in Parliament as politicians seek to block it.

Enacting the requirement, whose implementation has been postponed several times, would essentially block a host of sitting Members of Parliament, Members of County Assembly and aspirants, who do not have the requisite academic papers.

Currently, the Elections Act only makes it mandatory for the presidential aspirant and running mate as well as governors and their running mates to be degree holders.

Deputy President William Ruto is among leaders opposed to the requirement. Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen has since tabled an amendmen.

The Elections (Amendment) Bill, 2021 by Murkomen lists ability to read and write as the only requirement.

He argues that making academic papers a requirement for elective positions would lock out many people with leadership attributes.

MCAs have also rushed to the High Court to block implementation of the requirement after IEBC recently announced that it will only clear those with the requisite papers.

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