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Confusion as MPs embark on shifting to offices at Bunge Towers

 Bunge Towers where MPs will have their new offices. [Wilberforce Okwiri,Standard]

Fourteen years and Sh9.26 billion later, Members of Parliament have started the process of moving into the up-to-the-minute offices domiciled at Bunge Towers.

Legislators from both the National Assembly and the Senate who have been operating from the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), Harambee SACCO plaza, and Continental House ceded their space in the said premises and began relocating to the 28-story building.

There, 331 air-conditioned offices, committee rooms, an open garden floor, an ultra-modern restaurant, a health club and four basement parking floors with capacity to accommodate up to 350 vehicles awaited them.

A spot check by The Standard revealed that only a section of MPs had moved into the new offices with a huge segment of the building still undergoing final touches.

“We have started actualizing the communication from the speaker. I can confirm that the lower level of Bunge towers has been occupied. Those of us who were operating from KICC have also started relocating,” said Sabatia MP Clement Sloya.

Another MP who sought anonymity disclosed that the relocation process had been hampered by members who had taken up offices not allocated to them but said this was being resolved.

All the while, a meeting by the Parliamentary service Commission was taking place on Thursday chaired by National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang'ula.

Inside the building, MPs will also have access to an underground Sh150 million tunnel connecting the towers to the main Parliament buildings. It is five meters wide and 120 meters long and was designed to keep the legislators away from “unwanted” attention of their constituents who often flock Parliament premises seeking handouts.

Information relayed to The Standard indicates that the tunnel is complete with a 24-hour lighting system, Wi-Fi internet coverage, drainage system and security personnel on guard.

According to communication by Wetang'ula, the occupation of Bunge Towers will be conducted in a phased approach; the first phase will see all MPs currently in Harambee SACCO Plaza who were allocated offices in the Tower immediately relocate to their new offices in the Bunge Tower.

It will also see MPs with offices at KICC who were allocated offices in the Bunge Tower relocated to their assigned offices, whereas those that were unsuccessful in the balloting for offices in the Bunge Tower are accommodated at the Harambee SACCO plaza.

In his communication to the House on Tuesday, the speaker explained that the decision to prioritize the relocation of MPs from KICC was premised on the fact that Kenya will be hosting the 2024 Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group.

The Annual Meetings will be held at KICC from 27th to 31st May 2024 and will bring together high-level delegates, among them being Heads of State and Governments.

“In this regard and in order to accord the delegates appropriate facilitation, the National Treasury has requested Parliament to release forty-seven (47) offices at KICC to accommodate the dignitaries, with effect from Thursday, 11th April 2024,” said Wetangula.

“To this end, Honourable Members, the Parliamentary Service Commission has acceded to the request to temporarily release the offices leased by the Commission at the KICC during the AfDB Annual Meetings. Clearly, this will necessitate the relocation of forty-two (42) Members of this House who are currently accommodated at KICC.”

Phase two of the relocation will entail MPs with offices at Continental House moving to Bunge Tower whereas members operating from other leased offices will be expected to shift to the new offices from 1st July 2024.

Further, the Clerk’s office will facilitate the allocation of appropriate offices in other buildings within Parliament Square to MPs moving from Continental House or leased premises who were not allocated offices in the Bunge Tower.

“Honourable Members, the measures stated above are for the convenience of all Members and in preparation for the official opening of the Bunge Tower by the Head of State later this month. I, therefore, urge you to cooperate with the office of the Clerk in order to ensure seamless execution of this important exercise,” added the speaker.

And according to the allocation criteria, only 280 MPs out of the total 349 members of the National Assembly will be allocated the new offices while only 51 out of the 67 Senators will be given priority

The leadership of the two Houses including deputy party whips, members of the Speaker’s panel, chairpersons of committees and vice chairpersons of committees will be given priority in the allocation of the offices. Members with disability and even MPs serving a second term or more will also be housed in the new skyline marvel.

Notably, the construction of the tower was commenced in 2010 by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) with the aim of providing suitable office space for the MPs. A budget of Sh5.89 billion had been pegged on the project but this was later revised to Sh7.1 billion with financial claims attracting Sh1.1 billion and Sh225.2 million in interest on delayed payments. The figure stood at approximately Sh9.2 billion by last month.

At the same time, Parliament is contending with an overflowing in-tray as it resumed plenary sittings from short recess earlier this week.

The House is expected to conclude the vetting of persons nominated for appointment to the positions of ambassadors and high commissioners, ratification of the Kenya-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAS) and the consideration of priority Bills, as well as the budget-related matters.

The National Treasury is also expected to submit the Budget Estimates for the National Government for the financial year 2024/2025 on or before 30th April 2024 which will be subsequently considered by the House.

Other businesses to be undertaken by the MPs include the Division of Revenue Bill, 2024 which had been referred to the Senate for bicameral consideration, and the County Allocation of Revenue Bill for financial year 2024/2025.

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