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Omtatah: Referendum needed to okay privatisation of State firms

 Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah says the proposal strips Parliament of its oversight role in the sale of State-owned corporations or parastatals. [File, Standard]

Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah now wants Kenyans to reject the proposal to privatise public-owned enterprises without approval of Parliament. In a press statement sent to newsrooms, Omtatah urged the public to reject the proposal to have the Privatisation Bill 2023 that, according to him, strips Parliament of its constitutionally sanctioned oversight role.  “The Bill’s proposal to strip Parliament of its oversight role in the sale of State-owned corporations or parastatals must be subjected to a national referendum for approval. "Article 255(1)(h) of the Constitution states categorically that any amendment to the functions of Parliament must be subjected to a national referendum,” Omtatah said in his statement. The senator termed the current National Assembly an "auction house", which is extremely transactional.

“If Parliament, even in its current sorry state, is locked out of the process of selling public corporations, whatever little transparency and accountability that usually accrues from the public glare that goes with parliamentary processes, will be thrown out of the window,” said Omtatah. The lawmaker further said the government should address the management problems facing State-owned corporations instead of ceding ownership to the private sector. On Tuesday, the Cabinet approved a bill giving power to the National Treasury to privatise public-owned enterprises without MPs' approval. The Bill is now set to be tabled in Parliament by National Assembly Majority Leader Kimani Ichung'wah.

Should it pass, it will repeal the Privatization Act of 2005, thus giving powers to Treasury Cabinet Secretary Njuguna Ndung’u, who will now be responsible for the formulation and development of the state’s privatisation programme.

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