Graft, poor record haunt MPs as House resumes on Tuesday

The National Assembly and Senate will resume on Tuesday to a busy year amid accusations of lacklustre performance, graft and supremacy battles.

The bicameral House is expected to deal with unfinished business including the controversial Gender Bill after the vote was deferred to 2019 following a quorum hitch.

MPs will also debate a Bill seeking to have free cancer treatment in the country and another one proposing to block courts from givingorders to halt multi-billionshilling government infrastructural projects over land compensation disputes.

The draft Bill by Laikipia Women Representative Catherine Waruguru which is already in Parliament, proposes cancer patients in the country be treated for free through the establishment of a cancer fund.

Under the Land Value Index Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016, there will be no court order stopping development on land if public funds have already been committed.

Give priority

The Gender Bill was deferred on November 28 for lack of quorum after the House failed to marshal 233 members required to vote in support of the Bill. Majority Leader Aden Duale lauded the House for working diligently last year.

“The House performed well and we would have cleared about 30 bills, had there been no delay in the approvals by the Senate,” he said.

Senate deputy Speaker Kithure Kindiki noted that they will give priority to the Budget Policy paper generated by the Treasury that will trigger the budget making process in the first week of business.

“We also have the Roads, Petroleum, Energy and Irrigation Bills that have significance to the country,” Prof Kindiki explained.

He said that the Roads Bill will help identify the national and county roads, an issue that has been a source of conflict.

The Deputy Speaker explained that the Energy Bill passed by the National Assembly in 2017 sought to consolidate the laws relating to energy, align the legal and regulatory framework of the energy sector with the Constitution.

Parliament has come under attack over its conduct that has seen some MPs arrested and a committee of the House probe the conduct of their colleagues.

During the National AntiCorruption Conference, President Uhuru Kenyatta hit at the legislature terming the House committees graft dens where MPs use privileged information to cut deals.

House calendar

“We know that they summon government officials with privileged information that they then use for their own selfish ends, this needs to stop,” President Kenyatta said.

Likely to be controversial in the House calendar is the passing of the Parliamentary Service Bill that is through the third reading and awaiting a vote. The lack of quorum that saw the Bill flop was seemingly informed by President Uhuru Kenyatta’s open declaration that he would not assent to it.

Once passed, lawmakers will have access to rent-free housing, a government vehicle, an expanded medical cover among other benefits. The Bill would in efect hand the Parliamentary Service Commission the powers to decide MPs’ perks.

The president and Opposition leader Raila Odinga have weighed in on the matter and accused the MPs of greed.

Perhaps to capture the diminishing stature of the once revered legislators was the arrest of MPs over criminal allegations, bringing disrepute to their honourable status.

At one point, the Powers and Privileges Committee chaired by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi interrogated Muhoroni MP Onyango K’Oyoo and his Kimilili counterpart Didmus Baraza as people of interest following their public claims that MPs received as little as Sh10,000 to defeat the report.

And last year, Director of Public Prosecutions Noordin Haji added an interesting twist to the role of MPs claiming that members of a parliamentary committee that grilled his officers over accountability were defending cases against him in court.

Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who is in court fighting criminal charges, is represented by seven MPs and four senators.

An audit of the last year indicates that the National Assembly passed eleven bills that have become laws before they proceeded on recess.

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