Vihiga Senator Godfrey Osotsi has sponsored a Bill that seeks to impose a fine of Sh2 million for those who fail to appear before Parliament or its committees.
The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to amend the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act to provide clarity on how the powers of arrest are to be exercised by Parliament and the committees.
Mr Osotsi, in the Bill that is before the Senate, seeks to guarantee persons who fail to appear before Parliament and committees the right to a fair hearing prior to any adverse action being taken against them.
“The purpose of this Bill is to give effect to Article 125 of the Constitution, which grants Parliament the power to summon any person to appear before it,” he said.
Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, 2023, seeks to amend the procedures for issuing summons and provides for the execution of an order of arrest by a police officer or an officer of Parliament.
Osotsi also seeks to have the fine that may be imposed by the court for someone convicted for non-appearance before the House or committee enhanced from Sh200,000 to Sh2 million.
“Execution of an order of arrest is to be done by a police officer or an officer of Parliament. Where an order of arrest is to be effected by a police officer, the Clerk shall transmit the order to the Inspector General for execution. Where an order of arrest is to be effected by an officer of Parliament, the Inspector General shall facilitate the arrest as may be requested by the Clerk,” said Osotsi.
The Bill has already undergone public participation after which the Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee received a written memorandum from the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC), Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), Commission on Administrative Justice (CAJ) and the Council of Governors.
KNCHR raised concern over the increase of the fine from Sh200,000 to Sh2 million.
The commission argued in its submission that granting Parliament the power to execute arrest orders blurs the lines of separation between the legislative and judicial branches.
“While the imposition of a sanction on an administrative basis against Members of Parliament may be considered passable as internal disciplinary procedures, the imposition of a fine or the ordering of the arrest of a witness in contempt may be considered criminal. However, Parliament does not constitute an independent court or tribunal for contempt proceedings,” said KNCHR in its submission.
The KLRC submitted that the proposals contained in the Bill were constitutionally, legally and technically sound, and meet the threshold for consideration by the Senate.
The CAJ recommended that clause 3(b) of the Bill seeking to amend section 18 of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act be amended to require Parliament or the relevant committee to communicate or issue summons to a person in a timely and efficient manner.
The Council of Governors proposed that clause 4(b) of the Bill be amended to provide for non-imposition of penalties where valid reasons were given to justify non-appearance before Parliament or the relevant committee.