Senators see President Uhuru Kenyatta's hand in weakening House

The Senate has launched a scathing attack on President Uhuru Kenyatta and National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi over ‘deliberate illegal moves to cripple the limping second chamber of the Eleventh Parliament’.

Still coming to terms with the decision of the National Assembly to do away with their Sh1 billion kitty for oversight in the counties, senators are now up in arms over the President’s decision to appoint the new Central Bank of Kenya bosses without having involved them in the vetting process as required by law.

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi (left) and Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro. Senators are still coming to terms with the decision of the National Assembly to do away with their Sh1 billion kitty for oversight in the counties. (PHOTO: BONIFACE OKENDO/STANDARD)

The senators are also upset with President Kenyatta’s proposal in a presidential memo on the Public Audit Bill, 2015 which seeks to make the Auditor General’s office subservient to the Public Service Commission (PSC), and sort of, emasculate that key office that exposes the theft of public funds. PSC will decide who works there and for how long, whereas the Constitution in article 252 gives the Auditor General the power to pick own staff.

Senate Speaker Ekwee Ethuro slammed President Kenyatta’s hiring of CBK’s bosses, saying the process was illegal and the subsequent appointment a ‘nullity’.

Ethuro said the National Assembly breached the Central Bank Act when it decided to unilaterally vet the nominee for governor Patrick Njoroge, the deputy Sheila M’Mbijiwe and the chairman of the CBK Board Mohammed Nyaoga.

“The approval process appears to have been conducted unilaterally by the National Assembly without reference to the Senate, despite express provisions of sections 11(1), 13(1) and 13B(1) of the Central Bank Act,” wrote Ethuro in a three-page letter to Muturi seen by The Standard.

The clauses in the Act require that the vetting of a governor, the deputy governor, the chairman of the Board of Directors and all the board directors have to be vetted by Parliament. As per the Constitution, Ethuro reminded Muturi that Parliament consists of the National Assembly and the Senate.

The law says the President will appoint these directors and top officials through a transparent and competitive process and with the approval of Parliament.

The legal query about the process came four days before President Kenyatta formally appointed the CBK bosses. When the President made the appointments on June 27, 2015, he backdated them to take effect from June 19, 2015.

 Freeze vetting

People familiar with the power games in Government said the President had to backdate the appointment to look like he was not aware of the legal breach that Muturi had committed.

Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) and Boni Khalwale (Kakamega) had pleaded with the leadership of the Senate to write to the President to freeze the process, but the hope that the President was unlikely to make the appointments because of the obvious illegality was shattered.

Wetangu’la insisted that the Senate cannot be ignored, especially where the law is clear that senators have a duty given that Parliament included the two Houses.

“That jurisdiction is not a gift. It is conferred by the law. This House has no capacity or right to sign away the little jurisdiction that we have been given,” he said.

When the matter came up, presiding Speaker Wilfred Machage (Migori) noted that perhaps there were people in the Government who were not keen on obeying the Constitution, as he obliquely pointed an accusing finger at the President and Muturi. “It is because some aspects of the population and leadership need to be tutored carefully and slowly for them to understand the law,” said Machage.

Ethuro asked that the process be cancelled and a fresh one done “so that it stops people from going to court to contest the legality of the new CBK chiefs.

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Finance and Budget vehemently opposed what they said were schemes by the President and the Executive to subvert the Constitution using the National Assembly.

Committee Chairman Senator Billow Kerrow (Mandera) said it was unfortunate that after Parliament pronounced itself on the Public Audit Bill, 2015, the President had introduced new proposals, some illegal, which will completely alter the law.

“We will oppose the President’s amendments. We take strong exception to what the Executive is trying to do. This process of making laws is the mandate of Parliament but not the Executive,” said Kerrow regarding the memo on the Public Audit Bill, 2015.

“The law is very clear. The Office of the Auditor General is an independent office. PSC is an independent commission. You cannot make one subordinate to the other. Article 252(1)(c) is very clear: Each commission and each holder of an independent office shall recruit its own staff,” he added.

The Standard
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