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ODM’s coup in Parliament

By | June 18th 2009

By Martin Mutua

Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement’s bloodless coup in Parliament saw it seize control of key House committees and a majority representation in seven others.

From the vantage positions on the saddle of committees that influence operations of Parliament on the basis of its delegated authority, ODM could further flex its muscle in the House on matters of national interest such as the reform agenda.

ODM’s leverage in the tussle came from the fact that slots reserved for President Kibaki’s Party of National Unity were doled out to its individual affiliate parties such as Narc-Kenya, which has all but on paper splintered, and ODM-Kenya.

After the hidden war with PNU over who should be the Leader of Government business between Raila and Vice- President Kalonzo Musyoka, the development last night was relief to ODM. The party grabbed 12 of 26 departmental committees while securing a sizeable majority in seven others.

PNU, which has a troubled coexistence in the Grand Coalition, on the other hand, secured a majority in seven committees. But ODM’s triumph, which followed its earlier threat to take over all the committees, was discernible from the fact that it sized control of the two public watchdog committees - Public Accounts Committee and Public Investments Committee.

In the two watchdog committees on public expenditure by Government, ODM has five of 11 members in each committee.

This means ODM is likely to have the upper hand in terms of how these committees operate considering Standing Orders stipulate three members can constitute a quorum. Decisions by the committees are also taken by casting of a vote.

Five of nine slots

The committees that ODM comfortably took control over include Administration and National Security with six out of the 11, Agriculture, Livestock and Co-operatives with six out of 11 members, Education Research and Technology with a similar number. In the Energy, Communications and Information committee, the party had five of nine slots. The committees that PNU has a majority include those of Defence and Foreign Relations with six of 11 members, Justice and Legal Affairs with a similar number, Lands and Resources with five of nine members, the new committee on Delegated Legislation with six of nine members, the new one on Implementation, Library as well as catering.

ODM also took control of the Finance, Planning and Trade committee as well as that of Health.

The Constituency Development Fund Committee is also under the ambit of ODM with six of 11 members. The new departmental committee on Labour and Social Welfare was also taken up by ODM as well as that of Local Authorities as was the case with Transport, Public works and Housing.

The party also took charge of a new investigatory committee named Local Authorities and Funds Accounts committee whose main task will be similar to that of the two watchdogs committees – Public Accounts Committee and Public Investments Committee.

The new committee will be charged with examining the accounts of the local authorities to confirm the

appropriations of the sums voted by the House to meet their public expenditure. But the committee, according to the Standing Orders, shall not examine matters of policy or day-to-day administration of local authorities or other funds.

But this particular committee could encounter a hitch in its election of a chairperson as the Standing Orders indicate that a member who does not belong to a party in government should hold the position.

The entire membership consist of both ODM and PNU members who are both in government.

ODM has also taken control of the new Committee on Equal Opportunity with five out of the nine members, as is the new House Broadcasting Committee.

Related Matters

The committee will be responsible for all matters relating to broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings. It will also assess and analyse parliamentary information released to the media.

According to the Standing Orders the committee will also make reports and recommendations to the House regularly, including proposed legislation on all matters relating to broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings and related matters.

ODM also took control of the new Committee on Procedure and House Rules, which Speaker Kenneth Marende will chair.

According to the Standing Orders the committee is charged with responsibility of considering and reporting on all matters relating to the

Standing Orders.

It is also responsible for coming up with amendments to the Standing Orders and any such amendments, which shall have to be approved by the House.

The party also has an equal majority for the membership of the powerful Speaker’s Committee with six of 12 members.

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