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National Assembly holds extra sittings to beat deadline

COUNTIES
By Alphonce Shiundu | November 21st 2013
MPs sit for extra hours to handle pending bills before they go on recess. (Photo:File/Standard)

By Alphonce Shiundu

Nairobi, Kenya: The National Assembly sat on Thursday morning to expedite the processing of Bills pending in the House ahead of their Christmas break on December 5.

This is the first of three extra sittings that the MPs approved on Wednesday. They will also sit next Thursday, and the Thursday after.

The sitting that was scheduled to begin at 9am had a late start –11 minutes late—because there was no quorum.

“I regret that we cannot start because we do not have quorum. Kenyans in their wisdom decided to put the issue of quorum in the Constitution,” said Speaker Justin Muturi said Thursday, as he froze House business until there were 50 MPs in the House.

He ordered the quorum bell be rang for ten minutes to call MPs into the House. Quorum was raised within six minutes.

The Speaker then ordered the four committees – Energy, Information and Communications; Health; Budget and Appropriations; and Transport—to go ahead and conduct their meetings. He directed all the other MPs to make sure that the House business goes on.

“I am sure there will be sufficient members to debate the business in the Order Paper. All committees that are scheduled to meet may proceed to do their business,” said Muturi. “I have sat and witnessed in other jurisdictions where only the Speaker is in the House, and only one member is contributing”.

Muturi added that under the rules, where every MP contributes for just ten minutes, only 24 MPs can contribute.

“When you sit from 2.30pm to 6.30pm it’s just four hours. In that time only 24 MPs can contribute. It will be grossly unfair for the public and the taxpayer if we hold 349 members here, when we know only 24 will contribute,” said Muturi as he ordered the committees to go ahead with the meetings.

Ordinarily the House does not sit on Thursday morning. But beginning today until they go on recess on December 5, they will sit from 9am to 12.30pm every Thursday.

Deputy Majority Leader Naomi Shaaban (Taveta) had on Wednesday asked the MPs to approve the change in timetable so that they clear the pending Bills, including the National Police Service (amendment) Bill and the National Police Service Commission (amendment) Bill, plus many other Bills pending in the House.

Reduce workload

“After people have gone away for close to 70 days, it will be very difficult for us to come in and start doing a lot of work. It is important for us to do us much work as possible so that when we begin a new session we’ll have a fresh lot of work,” said Shaaban as she notified the MPs that the House was likely to resume its sittings in mid-February.

Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo (Gem) backed the changes to the timetable and said priority will be given to the proposed amendments to the Value-Added Tax Act, to cushion Kenyans from the high cost of living.

Midiwo said the Statute Law (Miscellaneous amendment) Bill, 2013, will have to be withdrawn, because it had very many proposals and the MPs needed time to scrutinise it and ensure that all the changes they make to the country’s laws conform to the Constitution.

“There are many Bills that members say they don’t want rushed. We have agreed that under leadership of the Speaker, the Statute Law must be done when we have time,” Midiwo told the House yesterday.

He told the House that an agreement had already been reached between the Speaker, himself and the Majority leader Adan Duale and the proposal submitted to the House Business Committee.

Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi asked the MPs to take note of the changes in the sitting timetable.

The Speaker told the MPs that while he was aware that House committees had scheduled meetings, the MPs ought to make sure they don’t miss the sittings of the plenary.

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