Third Senate to be remembered for funds fight, impeachments

Senate in session, 2020. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Impeachments, the clamour for relevance, clashes with the National Assembly, and the passage of critical legislation have defined the tenure of the Third Senate that adjourned yesterday.

As curtains fell after a rollercoaster five-year term, senators, led by Speaker Ken Lusaka, outlined their scorecard on accomplishments and challenges.  

During its tenure, the Senate passed 20 Bills on issues affecting the country and, more specifically, strengthening devolution. The House also considered 403 motions, 103 petitions and 501 statements.

The Speaker said the Senate undertook notable inquiries, including protection of Kenyan workers in the Middle East, and assessment and monitoring of the Covid-19 pandemic situation in Kenya.

Dr Lusaka also cited the state of correctional facilities, challenges facing the tea sector that culminated in the enactment of the Tea Act in 2020, the status of Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) in the counties, and the plight of ECDE teachers.

Other highlights included consideration and approval of Nakuru Municipality to a city, the state and financing of mobile network connectivity in underserved parts of the country through the Universal Service Fund, the state of debt management in Kenya and effective use of Ifmis as a means for accountability, and review of laws on the operations and management of Saccos.

“…we have survived a global pandemic, made history safeguarding the constitutional mandate of the Senate, created a haven for Kenyans from all walks of life to engage with the legislature, and held true to the makings of an effective legislature,” said Dr Lusaka.

The Senate’s leadership was put to the test during heated debates on impeachment of governors. The House considered five impeachment motions.

Special committee

Three of the impeachment processes were considered by way of investigation by a Special Committee with respect to Granton Samboja (Taita Taveta) in 2019, Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) in 2020, and Wajir’s Mohamed Abdi Mohamud in 2021.

The impeachment of Kiambu Governor Ferdinand Waititu and his Nairobi counterpart Mike Mbuvi Sonko were, however, considered in plenary.

“One of the key observations from these impeachment processes was that there is need to standardise the procedure applied in considering a motion for the proposed removal of a president, deputy president, county governor, a deputy county governor, a Cabinet secretary or a county executive committee member.

“Another hallmark of our legislative work has been consideration and passage of the third basis for revenue allocation among county governments. From this experience, the Senate emerged stronger and more than ever before demonstrated its commitment to protect devolution,” said Dr Lusaka.

On the flip side, the Senate’s tenure was not devoid of challenges; most notable was its constant fight with the National Assembly for relevance and space to exercise its legislative and oversight mandate.

In 2013, the Senate moved to court seeking an advisory opinion on its role in the consideration of the Annual Division of Revenue Bill and other Bills affecting counties.

The prickly relationship between the two Houses continued, prompting the Senate to institute legal proceedings to challenge laws that had been enacted unprocedurally by the National Assembly.

Dr Lusaka regretted that owing to the wrangles between the two Houses, key Bills referred to the National Assembly were not concluded, and he urged the 13th Parliament to prioritise them.

They include the Public Participation Bill, Impeachment Procedure Bill, Community Health Bill, Office of the County Printer Bill, Disaster Risk Management Bill, Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill, and the Start-up Bill.

A court ruling also rendered multiple Bills that the Senate forwarded to the National Assembly null and void, including the Parliamentary Service Act. Dr Lusaka regretted that this altered the legislative business of the Senate and denied it the opportunity to make determinations on the Bills.