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Ignore the naysayers, Senate is here to stay

By Ken Lusaka | September 26th 2018

Senators sat in Eldoret from yesterday for the first outside Nairobi. The inaugural week-long plenary and committee sessions at the Uasin Gishu County Assembly, is a pointer that the Senate takes  its role of providing an enabling environment for effective and efficient operations of the counties seriously.

And as a testament that the House is rising and growing stronger, one does not have to look further than the vain calls by some individuals to have the Senate scrapped in the name of it an ‘unnecessary burden to the taxpayers”.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

To be blunt, those calling for the abolishing of the Senate seemingly do not understand the role of the houses in the bicameral system of parliament and specifically the role of the Senate in regards to devolution.

For the last over six years since its establishment, the House has played its rightful role, that of representing the counties and serving to protect their interests and those of their governments, as spelled out in Article 96 of the Constitution.

The institution at the same time, as required by the law, has participated in making legislations that concern the counties, determined the allocation of national revenue to the devolved units and exercised oversight on how the funds are spent.

Scrapping the senate simply means also doing away with devolution in its entirety, a tall order considering the positive impact the new system of government has had on the lives of ordinary Kenyans over the last six years of devolution.

It is said that we miss the whole essence of legislation if we mistake politics for legislative debate.

I agree that in politics no one has a monopoly of ideas since the players never see things the same way, but I believe we ought to consider this issue of senate and devolution dispassionately and away from the normal politics.

Just for the record, the senate during the 11th parliament considered and passed 88 bills, out of which 39 originated from the National Assembly while the rest originated from the Senate.

Over 300 motions were considered and 63 petitions from the public were deliberated upon.

The current senate which has been in place for slightly a year has succeeded in re-settling relations with the council of governors, a matter that has seen our committee hold fruitful engagement with county chiefs.

House committee too have successfully conducted probes on issues of public interest, the most recent one being the Patel Dam tragedy, which was handled and concluded in record time.

The historic sittings at Usain Gishu, just serves to dispel the fears of skeptics as it shows the members take their legislative work seriously   and are even ready to let the public understand what they do.

This is Pursuant to Article 126 of the Constitution that mandates either House of parliament to sit anywhere in the country.

At the same time, the sittings will also provide Senators with the opportunity to interact directly with county governments and the public so as to understand their challenges and identify opportunities to strengthen devolution.

This can be done through initiating and coming up with legislations that   will ensure that devolution succeeds.

From today several standing committees of the House will hold sittings at the County Assembly in the same manner and practice as it happens in Nairobi.

A number of Governors from the region have been scheduled to appear before the  watchdog  house team to clarify a number of issues over the 2014/2015  audit queries raised by the Auditor general Edward Ouko.

The county chiefs that will be appear before the County Public Accounts and Investment Committee include host Governor Jackson Mandago (Uasin Gishu) and his colleagues John Lonyangapuo (West Pokot)  and Stanley Kiptis (Baringo).

Apart from the normal plenary sittings and grilling of Governors over expenditure during the 2014/ 2015 financial year, other House committees also have a lot of business to consider.

Members of the senate select committee on the maize crisis together with their colleagues from the Agriculture department are scheduled to conduct two public hearings.

The team will hold two sessions in Eldoret and Kapsabet towns, where they will gather views of the regions residents on how best to end the woes facing the maize sub-sector.

On the other hand, the Standing Committee on Health will visit West Pokot to address a petition on deteriorating healthcare in the county.

The Senators in the week-long programme are scheduled to tour public facilities and projects including the Moi International Airport the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital among other places.

Are you in the North Rift? You cannot afford to miss this! All the sessions and meetings will be open to the public.

Mr Lusaka is the Senate Speaker

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