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Court blocks senators' Sh500m oversight fund, calls for new rules

 The Senate chambers in session during Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza's  Impeachment hearing. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Senators will have to wait longer to enjoy the Sh500 million set aside by the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) after the High Court found that it is discriminatory to leave out those who are nominated.

Justice Lawrence Mugambi ordered that PSC should stop further disbursement of Senate oversight funds until new regulations are in place to accommodate nominated senators.

He said the regulations should include how the money will be distributed, how Senators will be made to account for it and how the funds will be fully utilized to benefit Kenyans.

“To ensure inclusivity, openness and accountability in the implementation process, an order be and is hereby issued directing the Respondent to immediately stop any further disbursements in respect of “Senate Oversight Fund” until it formulates, subject to public participation and publishes regulations outlining the activities that money may be applied to, includes all the Senators, distribution criteria, sets out an accountability process including general control and management to facilitate prudent utilization,” ruled Justice Mugambi. 

The judge found that PSC did not offer a plausible explanation on why it had decided to exclude those who are nominated.

He said that the commission ought to have factored in that nominated senators represent special interests in the House and, hence, also needed special facilitation.

Nevertheless, the judge said there was nothing wrong in setting aside money to enable senators to carry out their functions.

He instead said that the problem was how the fund was being implemented.

The case was filed by Senators Rapahel Chimera, Catherine Muyeka, Tabitha Mutinda, Hamida Kibwana and Miraj Abdillahi.

Necessary structures

They claimed that PSC had started the implementation of the fund before putting in place the necessary structures.

The senators also lamented that although the Senate has 67 members, the commission indicated it would only allocate the money to the 47 who are elected.

According to the group led by Chimera, PSC had illegally created two classes of senators despite all being in Parliament for the same purpose.

In 2022, the Senate started lobbying for the establishment of the Senate Oversight Fund. When Kenya Kwanza took over the government, it set aside Sh500 million for the purpose.

However, the Senators who moved to court argued that the amount was not factored in the budget and the public was not made aware that there was a senate oversight fund.

PSC had urged the court to dismiss the case. It argued that initially it had locked out nominated senators but upon considering the constitution, it recalled its communication and gave a directive that they would be factored in as part of the county delegation.

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