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Parliament was centre of battle over disputed Bills and policies

President William Ruto (right), National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang'ula (second right), Senate Speaker Amason Kingi and other leaders during the State of the Nation Address at the Parliament Buildings last month. [File, Standard]

Parliament took a long recess this month with both the Senate and National Assembly set to resume sittings in February, next year, with mixed opinions on whether the two Houses achieved their objectives in 2023.

Legislators allied to the government side say both Houses achieved their goals while the opposition says Parliament is controlled by President William Ruto

The opposition argues that the House cannot achieve anything meaningful and has been misused by the Executive to push its unpopular schemes.

Top of the agenda of Parliament when it resumes its sittings will be the discussion and adoption of the report by the National Dialogue Committee, with the government side promising to keep its side of the bargain hoping that the opposition will be faithful to follow through the commitments secured.

Senate Majority Leader Aaron Cheruiyot, who was a member of the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco), told The Sunday Standard that the high cost of living was a mirage that the opposition uses to advance selfish political goals, terming it an upgrade from the opaque server tales which is spun after every election defeat.

National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi said the opposition is looking forward to a robust discussion of the Nadco report when Parliament resumes sittings in the new year and believes that both sides of the House will look at the report objectively and adopt what is good for the country.

Standing orders

Cheruiyot said one of the achievements during the second session of the Senate was the amendment of the standing orders to allow Cabinet Secretaries to appear on the floor of the House to respond to questions raised, noting this will ensure they are held accountable by Parliament on behalf of Kenyans.

“As a result of these amendments, Cabinet Secretaries now appear before the Senate plenary every Wednesday morning and National Assembly plenary on Wednesday afternoon. This has allowed members to seek answers on important matters concerning their constituents and interrogate government policy,” said Cheruiyot.

He said during the year, the Senate published 59 bills, with five of them having been enacted into law, debate on eight Bills being concluded and referred to the National Assembly for concurrence while 31 Bills are pending conclusion at various stages in the Senate.

Undergoing concurrence

The Senate majority leader said six Bills are undergoing concurrence pursuant to Article 110 of the Constitution, five have been denied concurrence, two Bills were rejected at the second reading stage and two others were withdrawn by the sponsors.

Cheruiyot said among the Bills that are yet to be concluded are the Equalisation Fund Bill and the County Government Additional Allocations Bill. The latter proposes to give counties an additional Sh56 billion with the Bill set for mediation.

“Additional Allocation Bill is undergoing mediation but members are yet to meet because the National Assembly has specific issues that they have raised with the Council of Governors which they first want to be addressed before the mediation exercise can commence,” said Cheruiyot.

Cheruiyot said the House received 44 petitions with 22 of them concluded and reports tabled in the House while another 22 are still pending with respective committees. A total of 89 motions were filed in the House, out of which six are pending conclusion.

There are 90 questions that have been filed in the House by members who were seeking responses from CSs. Out of these, 51 have been responded to by the CSs with three having been withdrawn while 36 are pending, he said.

The Senate Business Committee made a resolution to take the Mashinani programme to far-flung areas of the country, with the House holding its plenary sittings at the Turkana County Assembly for five days in the last week of September. The Senate leadership hopes it will also go to another county far away from Nairobi in the new year so that residents can feel the presence of Parliament.

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Boss Shollei told The Standard that during the Session, the House transacted various key issues including considerations and approval of public finance-related motions, consideration and passage of Bills, terming the year a successful one in parliamentary business.

“These motions and Bills culminated in landmark legislation with far-reaching implications in the education, health, housing, labour and social welfare sectors, effectively turning around the economy. The House undertook its oversight role seriously through questions to Cabinet Secretaries,” said Shollei. 

Artificial majority

Wandayi termed the current Parliament as weak, with President William Ruto using an artificial majority to push unpopular policies that have impacted negatively on Kenyans. He said the country is not happy about Ruto's leadership for the short time that he has been in office.

“There is a fallacy and misnomer that there is the government and opposition side in Parliament. What we simply have is the majority and minority sides in the House. Kenya Kwanza Alliance has misused the artificial majority in the House to push unpopular policies,” said Wandayi.

The Ugunja MP said the Azimio La Umoja coalition has remained steadfast in championing the interests of Kenyans and that in the fullness of time, the opposition would be vindicated that it had good plans for the country and would have improved the economy if it took power which, he claimed, was stolen from them.

Senate Minority Whip Ledama ole Kina said the current Parliament was dead and that legislators had been turned into voting machines by the Executive, noting that has made life difficult for Kenyans.

“Parliament is under siege. It is absurd when you see some legislators allied to Kenya Kwanza going to State House to tell the President that the cost of living has gone up yet they are the ones who have passed Bills that have made life difficult. The opposition is being vindicated that this administration is clueless,” said Ledama.

The Narok Senator said the country needed to have a serious conversation about the performance of Parliament since citizens are suffering under the current administration which, he claimed, is only keen on overtaxing Kenyans who are already overburdened by harsh economic times.

Profiling legislators

Ledama said the Ruto administration has been profiling legislators who have opposed its unpopular policies and is targeting them using State agencies such as the Kenya Revenue Authority where they are made to face trumped-up charges. He claims that is one way of silencing them.

The Finance Bill, 2023, was a litmus test for the 13th Parliament given the opposition it attracted from a majority of Kenyans, with the president determined to raise funds through increased taxation.

The MPs were under pressure from the government to pass the controversial Bill, with Kenya Kwanza leaders feeling more heat after the president had made clear that he will be looking out for legislators who will oppose the Bill and later go to him seeking development funds.

The president labelled leaders opposed to the Bill as the enemy of the youth. He said the youth stand to benefit from the new proposals.

Controversial Bill

He made it clear that the country should know which side each MP would vote on as far as the passage of the controversial Bill was concerned.

"It should be known on which side the Members of Parliament will cast their vote. I am waiting for an MP who will vote to challenge the government's plan to give the young people who voted for them jobs coming to me seeking for development projects,” said Ruto.

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua scoffed at the opposition's rejection of the Bill, saying as the minority in the House, they will not create any roadblocks for the smooth passage of the proposed law which he said was meant to turn around the country’s economy. 

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