MPs tell off JSC, insist only law can limit their oversight role
By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU
| November 9th 2013
By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU
The oversight powers of the National Assembly over all the other State organs are limitless, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has stated.
Speaking to The Standard on Saturday just a day after MPs approved a report of a House committee to have six commissioners of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) vetted by a presidential tribunal, Mr Muturi said the MPs can only have boundaries as set out in the Constitution.
“The boundaries for oversight are in article 95 of the Constitution. It gives the National Assembly the power to review the conduct in office of the President, the Deputy President and other State officers and to even initiate the process of removing them from office,” the Speaker said.
Muturi’s remarks came amid public apprehension that the MPs were perhaps too powerful and that they were interfering with the functioning of the other arms of government. Even with that, the Speaker insisted that the powers to exercise oversight are based in the Constitution and they are limitless.
“Oversight is not aimed at controlling anybody, but to ensure that all State organs and State officers do everything that they are supposed to do under the Constitution efficiently,” Muturi said yesterday.
But Commission on Implementation of the Constitution commissioner Kamotho Waiganjo said Parliament and Judiciary should avoid operating as if they are threatening each other.
“Naturally the exercise of these checks and balances requires sobriety, temperance and must not be used to impede the operations of institutions. The Judiciary should only challenge the internal operations of Parliament in cases where these operations inevitably lead to constitutional violations. Parliament on the other hand must not use its powers, including its budgetary allocative powers to “cut the Judiciary to size”. This would be abuse of power. Where there is threat of any institution overreaching its jurisdiction,” he said
The National Assembly has been at loggerheads with nearly all the commissions that have stepped on the toes of MPs, and even those that have shown any kind of slight on the MPs or the committees of the House. Cabinet Secretaries who have failed to appear before the committees are also reprimanded whenever they manage to show up or are threatened in absentia.
The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee has taken the lead and exposed six JSC commissioners to a possible sack.
The committee rallied the House to adopt the report to allow President Uhuru Kenyatta to form a tribunal to investigate the suitability of Ahmednassir Abdullahi, Samuel Kobia, Christine Mango, Mohammed Warsame, Emily Ominde and Florence Mwangangi, who are members of the JSC Finance and Administration Committee.
The House Committee on Delegated Legislation and that on Lands have also censured a Cabinet Secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development Charity Ngilu.
The MPs have threatened sanctions against the Salaries and Remuneration Commission, and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution, and their respective chairpersons Sarah Serem and Charles Nyachae.
The MPs clashed with the SRC because of the commission’s stand that they ought to have earned Sh532,500 per month, and they hated the CIC because it sided with the SRC and told the lawmakers that they had no mandate to determine their own pay.
The Speaker said the apprehension about the power of the National Assembly is because Kenyans are trying to adapt to the new constitutional order, where the Executive is not represented in the august House.
“All those people you have talked about are your employees. You are the ones supervising them. So, if you think somebody is in breach of any law or provisions of this Constitution, you are at liberty to begin a process either under Article 152(6) all through to 10 or proceed under the Powers and Privileges Act,” said Muturi in his ruling in the House regarding the matter.
These sections give the MPs power to recommend the sacking of Cabinet secretaries and to even censure those State officers who ignore summonses to the House.
Muturi insisted that MPs should “always remember” that they have the “power to summon any person”.
The Speaker believes that once each arm of government gets its footing and understands the supremacy of the Constitution and the sovereignty of the people, then there will be no cause for alarm.
“I know everybody may be a bit unclear because it is a new governance structure, but this is what Kenyans have given themselves. So, everybody must play their part and help others to succeed. If they are not then they will be liable to sanctions,” the Speaker said in an earlier ruling.
He has, more than once told MPs that they have the power to oversee government operations, because, the Constitution allows them indirectly exercise the power of the people.
“Indeed, if you look at Article 1 on Sovereignty, sovereignty belongs to the people. How is it exercised? It is exercised either directly when they elect you or indirectly through their democratically elected representatives at the national level in Parliament and at the county level in the county assemblies. To who is sovereign power delegated? First of all, it is to the Legislature at the national level, then to the Executive, to the Judiciary and the others. So, you have what it takes,” he told the lawmakers in the ruling issued mid last month.
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