MPs propose removal of Senate and have governors appointed

President Uhuru Kenyatta is escorted by Speaker of the National assembly Justin Muturi (right) and Senate Speaker Ekwe Ethuro as he arrive at the parliament to deliver a State of the Nation address on Wednesday 15/03/17. PHOTO:BONIFACE OKENDO

A parliamentary committee has recommended that Senate be abolished.

This, the National Assembly Budget and Appropriations Committee said, is designed to resolve the lingering concern of over-representation and a ballooning wage bill.

The committee said the country cannot afford to maintain a high number of elected leaders at a time when Kenyans are complaining of over-representation and a soaring public expenditure on salaries.

The committee has further recommended that governors be appointed instead of elected, a radical move that could attract a backlash from advocates of devolution.

The committee said the current system has compromised the work of the Senate in providing a link between the national and county governments, hence the need to re-assess its necessity under the current constitutional dispensation.

"On the issue of over-representation, the committee agreed that Kenyans are over-represented in the legislative bodies and recommends abolishing the Senate or strengthening it to carry out work similar to that of the Council of Governors," said the committee in its report tabled in the National Assembly yesterday.

"The constitutional design of a directly elected Senate has inadvertently undermined the objective of enabling the Senate to scrutinize the national government and to provide a link to the county level of government," the Mutava Musyimi-led committee said.

The recommendation arose out of a social-economic audit of the 2010 Constitution, which recommended far reaching measures to cut down on the public wage bill.

The issue of over-representation has been a hard nut since 2010 with debate on the merits of having a bloated legislature taking centre stage in national discourse.

As a consequence, elected officers have been subject of main targets in efforts to reduce the wage bill, which the Government places at 50 per cent of the total revenue.

"It is obvious that Parliament is now becoming very expensive and Kenyans are paying dearly for our upkeep. The only way we can deal with this issue is to decide whether having two chambers is contributing to our economic growth. Hard times call for difficult decisions to be made. In this regard, the committee recommends a candid debate on whether this county can afford or sustain a Senate," the committee said.

The changes proposed by the Budget Committee can only be achieved through a referendum, as the Constitution recognizes both the National Assembly and the Senate, which is charged with playing an oversight role on devolution.

The Senate has 47 elected and 19 nominated members. The committee is, however, opposed to a proposal to cut down on the number of counties. It recommends its working be improved within the current structures.

"On the number of counties, the committee agrees with the recommendation in the report to retain the 47 counties but focus on improving the efficiency within the current structure," the report stated.

To further create a lean legislature, the committee also wants the country to reduce the number of constituencies and limit nominated members of county assemblies to one per constituency. It does not however propose a specific number of constituencies.