Its unnecessary for President William Ruto to make proposals to Parliament for amendment of the Constitution. It is misplaced, untimely and would gradually cannibalise the Constitution to create the hybrid stuff Kenyans moved away from in 2010. All the proposals are unworthy of amendment to the Constitution.
In a Presidential system such as ours, separation of the three arms of Government is imperative. Parliament is designed to provide effective oversight, including approval of all appointments to State offices. In essence, it checks the President, and is the de facto opposition to the Executive. A leader of Official Opposition would thus have to be an opposition to Parliament, not President. Such an office works in a parliamentary system such as the UK, but does not exist in the US which is a presidential system like ours.
In the National Assembly and the Senate, we have a Minority Leader who leads the opposition in checking the actions of the majority party in the House, and it is the appropriate forum for the Opposition to engage or criticise the government and its laws, policies, spending and programmes.
When we had a hybrid system of governance under the previous Constitution, the presidential candidates also ran for parliamentary seats, and hence the runner-up in the race was an MP, and became the Official Leader of Opposition. In essence then, such a person was the alternative Prime Minister or leader of the alternative government, and would form his Shadow Cabinet. Creating this office outside parliament undermines the role of the Minority Leaders.
What is the mischief to be cured by the proposed Bill in this amendment? Stop the Opposition from going to the streets and being confrontational? Or give them a carrot so that they can be passive and conformists, and happily in bed with the Executive as has happened in the Handshake enterprise? An opposition politician has a right under the Constitution to oversight the Executive inside and outside the House.
Indeed, every citizen enjoys the freedom to express themselves on any matter, including through demonstrations. Ironically, in recent weeks, the President and his deputy have told off Opposition leader Raila Odinga over his incessant criticism of the government, and want him to let them deliver on their pledges. And here they want to ‘arm’ him fully to hold the Executive to account! Clearly, to create such an office would lead to mutilation of the Constitution and will not add value to the role of the opposition.
Similarly, it is unnecessary to amend the Constitution and Parliamentary Standing orders to allow the Cabinet Secretaries to answer questions in Parliament. Again, it will create unnecessary conundrum. The Executive or the ruling party is represented in the House by the Majority Leader, and strengthened offices of the departmental committee chairs. Furthermore, we were there before and the experience wasn’t any better. If the Executive wants to obfuscate issues, it will do so whether through the CSs or committee chairs.
The CDF was created in 2003 as a precursor to devolution to address inequitable allocation of resources in the country. The Treasury allocated funds on the basis of political patronage and ministers prioritized their home turfs for development projects. Parts of this country were allocated meagre resources like a prescribed medicine, and lagged behind in development. Nonetheless, CDF served its purposes, albeit only 2.5 per cent of total budgeted expenditure.
However, after 2010 Constitution, all devolved funds ought to go the County Governments. Hence, CDF is inconsistent with devolution as stated by the courts. Uhuru’s administration let it continue because of political expediency, to help him use Parliament as a rubber stamp. Similarly, this administration also wants to appease Parliament for its own ends.
All the projects undertaken by CDF fall squarely in the mandate of the line ministries to which these funds can be sent to carry out the same projects. The role of MPs is to oversight these expenditures. After all, these ministries have all offices in the constituencies. That leaves the issue of women which I believe isn’t a priority today to the ordinary women of Kenya. Creating more positions for our elites, both women and men right now is not a priority.
The writer is former senator of Mandera County