SECTIONS

Parliament has failed its oversight role

When Kenyans in pomp and colour promulgated the new constitution in 2010, they abolished the unitary presidential system that was engraved with a dark period of history where the executive enjoyed unilateral and exclusive powers.

Under the new constitution, parliamentary oversight of the executive branch is crucial to the proper functioning of our democracy because it is the principal way the executive branch is held accountable.

So as every Member of Parliament takes the oath of office that requires them to “obey, respect, uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya”, they also commit to constantly and vigilantly review the executive branch of government that administers the laws.

But the devastating reality is that Members of Parliament from the majority wing of Jubilee led by Leader of Majority overwhelmingly behave as if they have taken oath to “protect and defend the president”, treating any disagreement as heresy, brooking no dissent and demonising opponents while only listening to their own counsel.

For a fact, the 11th Parliament has ceded authority to lockstep party loyalty and the rules of the game are being invented and implanted outside its established structures. This virtually complete dereliction of duty by the Jubilee-controlled Parliament of not placing the Uhuruto administrative agenda under constitutional scrutiny through its oversight responsibilities has invited wholesale abuse of executive authority operating with so little restraint.

Whether it is the failure to enforce laws and regulations protecting the public from runaway public debt growing at 20per cent per year, a highly regressive tax regime or the massive misuse and abuse of public resources where only a quarter of the country’s budget can be accounted for, the response remains the same; no parliamentary oversight, no administrative accountability.

In 2014, the Jubilee-controlled National Assembly, despite vehement Opposition uproar, passed the Security (Amendment) Bill 2014, giving the executive unfettered authority to violate Kenyans' fundamental rights and freedoms at the altar of anti-terror war.

In January this year, the Jubilee-controlled National Assembly unquestioningly and quietly amended the Judicial Service Commission Act to give the President larger latitude in determining the holder of the Chief Justice’s Office; an independent arm of government that the executive has exhibited a disturbing pattern of undermining.Lo and behold, the Muranga County Woman Representative was quoted by local dailies a few months ago talking about her intention to present a bill that would give the President the powers to appoint county governors.

What conceivable argument can be given to help understand how anyone elected to represent and protect public interest justifies setting aside his or her personal judgement, integrity, and honour, not to mention constitutional duty in favour of putative party loyalty?

The pattern of unchallenged abuse of executive power under the Jubilee administration is so widespread and so endemic that it cannot be justified on any traditional constitutional grounds.

There is documented evidence of pervasive curtailment of basic rights under the Jubilee administration.

In 2014, the Kenyan police and security forces under Operation Usalama Watch profiled Somalis by harassing, conducting arbitrary arrests and detaining thousands without charges in appalling conditions for periods beyond the lawful 24-hour limit, in the name of counter-terrorism policy.

Indeed, violations of basic rights and liberties by security forces are as real and as treacherous as the threat posed by terrorists.

A 2014 report by the Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU) indicates police were responsible for 67 per cent of all gun-related deaths between 2009 and 2013. Statistically, it is established that Kenyans are five times more likely to be shot dead by police than by criminals, with the Ombudsman having received 25,000 cases of extra-judicial killings, which have been filed by Kenyans in the past three years.

Parliamentary role of oversight is to question, to force daylight into dark corners, and to use the rules to force attention if not also disclosure.

But the 11th Parliament has refused to carry out its constitutionally mandated duty. What possible justification can be given, history will surely ask, for Parliament to be so submissive, abeyant, and acquiescent?

The watering down of our checks-and-balances form of liberal democracy enshrined in the Constitution to a one-party rule and dominance through the tyranny of numbers is to corruptly acquire power and re-introduce absolutist autocracy.

Presciently, given the independence of the Kenyan character, the good judgement and common sense of the people, and their inherent resistance to one-party rule, Parliament's move to allow the concentration of power in the hands of the orthodox few is an invitation to venality as chilling as an unavoidable train crash.