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Row in Parliament over delay on Constitution's new Bills

BUSINESS
By | August 12th 2011

By Alex Ndegwa

Ministers clashed in Parliament over delay in passing Bills implementing the Constitution as MPs warned they would not take the responsibility of fast-tracking Bills to cover up confusion in Government.

Justice Minister Mutula Kilonzo disowned a defence of the Executive by his Transport counterpart Amos Kimunya and fell short of accusing the Government of undermining the process.

Constitution Implementation Oversight Committee (CIOC) chairperson Abdikadir Mohammed and member Martha Karua. CIOC Vice-Chairperson Millie Odhiambo has questioned why no Bills related to constitutional implementation are lined up for debate in Parliament next week. [PHOTO: FILE/STANDARD]

Deputy Speaker Farah Maalim had asked Kimunya, who was besieged by MPs demanding explanation why the Bills had not been prioritised for debate, to seek the assistance of his Justice colleague. But Mutula stated he did not know why Bills that had been cleared by the Cabinet were yet to be published for tabling in the House.

He turned the heat on Attorney General Amos Wako and Charles Nyachae’s Commission for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC), who he claimed had sat on the Bills, even after clearance.

"I am afraid I go through the same frustrations. I have demanded that Bills approved by Cabinet be published promptly but that has not been the case," Mutula lamented.

Criticise Uhuru

Mutula also criticised the Finance ministry for the delay in the publication of the Commission on Revenue Allocation Bill, which he said was approved by Cabinet three weeks ago.

"There is a Bill that was approved three weeks ago and onThursday I couldn’t trace the minister or the Permanent Secretary. I only got hold of (Assistant minister) Oburu Odinga who assured me the Bill would be published but it hasn’t," he added.

This contradicted Kimunya’s assertion the delay was not deliberate since none of the Bills to implement the Constitution was ready for debate. "We cannot bring to the House a Bill that is not ready," Kimunya had said, claiming the three Bills on police reforms cleared by Cabinet this week were awaiting publication.

Kimunya, who is the deputy leader of Government Business in the House, had sparked a row with MPs after reading out a list of Bills lined up for debate next week, which did not include any on implementation of the Constitution.

Constitutional Implementation Oversight Committee Vice-Chairperson Millie Odhiambo queried the exemption noting 18 Bills to implement the new laws were pending with only 10 working days to the August 27 deadline.

"We don’t want Parliament to take the flak for the failure of other institutions. MPs do not want to see Bills in the Order Paper other than those on implementation of the Constitution," she said.

To support claims the Government was not serious, she cited the day’s Order Paper, which had ranked a Bill on National Construction Authority higher in priority than that on the National Gender and Equality Commission Bill. She said CIOC would publish all pending Bills.

Prioritise bills

Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo, a CIOC member, said the committee had made it clear the Government should prioritise Bills to implement the new charter.

"The Government should forget any extension of House sitting by hours or days because instead of concentrating on the Bills they are busy campaigning for 2012," he said.

Turkana Central MP Ekwe Ethuro said the AG was due to retire at the end of the month but the Government, he claimed, was delaying the new appointment to precipitate a crisis.

"It is the Government’s duty to bring the Bills on time. The trend of shortening the 14-day publication period is designed to deny public participation and compromise on the content of the Bills," he claimed.

Imenti Central MP Gitobu Imanyara sensationally claimed forces that were opposed to the new Constitution were undermining the implementation.

"We need to adjourn the business (of the House) to discuss who is really to blame for the delays. The same people who opposed the Constitution are the same ones using delay tactics so that we do not meet the timelines for passing the Bills," Imanyara said.

He added: "The reason they are shortening the publication period is so that Kenyans don’t have the time to scrutinise the Bills so that those passed do not meet the public expectation."

Suspend business

But Imanyara’s attempt to have the House suspend normal business to debate an adjournment Motion on the crisis was overruled by Maalim. The deputy speaker said though he acknowledged the gravity of the issue, but the Standing Orders required a notice for such a Motion to be issued two hours earlier.

He asked members interested in the Motion to pursue it on Tuesday.

Ikolomani MP Bonny Khalwale said the President and the Prime Minister should appoint substantive ministers in the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Higher Education.

MPs warned the divided Executive that they would not sanction the extension of House sittings to pass Bills. Kimunya assured members that the House Business Committee would accord priority to the Bills on the Constitution as they are submitted.

"We are serious on implementation of the Constitution. We will ensure that Bills that are ready are brought to the House," he said.

Kimunya reminded MPs the President in an address during a special session of Parliament had assured them of speedy passage of Bills, including those whose time limit is more than one year.

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