The National Assembly resumed sittings after a 10-day recess, with a quarrelsome rejoinder to the Senate over approval of the Mining Bill 2014.
The MPs accused the Senate of jumping the gun in issuing President Uhuru Kenyatta an ultimatum when the Bill in question had not yet been released to State House for assent.
Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso set the record straight when she said the Bill was still in the custody of the National Assembly, in the Clerk’s office where it was being fine-tuned ahead of submission to State House, almost a fortnight after the House approved it.
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But while Dr Laboso laid out the administrative process, Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township) and his Minority counterpart Francis Nyenze (Kitui West) led MPs in telling the Senate off for seeking to intrude on their legislative jurisdiction.
“The Senate is acting in bad faith. This bill has not been submitted to the President. The rush to the media by our colleagues shows there was a premeditated scheme to discredit the National Assembly,” said Mr Duale.
“Why should we use the media and the courts to solve disputes that have already been solved by the Constitution?” Duale asked, alluding to the senators’ move to fight for relevance in the court of public opinion. Mr Nyenze said Senate was becoming a bother and should be disbanded.
As the National Assembly breathed fire, the Senate went into a special session to discuss how they will go to court to seek binding orders on the legislative process, and to have up to 30 bills revoked because they were reportedly unprocedurally approved.
Senators accused National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and the Judiciary of persistent interference with their legislative agenda.
The legislators accused Mr Muturi of trying to undermine their authority, and some judges for issuing a string of injunctions.
The Senators approved a motion endorsing their decision to seek an advisory opinion from the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, Duale gave the House a detailed list of bills the National Assembly had sent to the Senate for approval but which for the past six months the Senate has not touched.
The MPs said the Senate’s appeals to the Attorney General for the Mining Bill 2014 to be forwarded to the Senate were futile.
The majority leader said while senators had a right to go to court, they must use the competent lawyers in the Litigation Department of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
“They want to hire external lawyers to reward their cronies and defraud the public of colossal amounts of money, whereas there are competent lawyers within the PSC who can arbitrate on any matter,” said Duale.
However, senators condemned Duale’s utterances.
Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula (Bungoma) said, “Senate has enough lawyers; we will go before the judges and defend it.”
Senate Majority Leader Kithure Kindiki (Tharaka Nithi) said they had run out of patience with Muturi.
The two House leaders scoffed at plans by PSC not to allocate funds to pay lawyers the Senate intends to hire to represent it at the Supreme Court.
Prof Kindiki said Muturi had failed to forward a record 46 bills to Senate as provided for in the Constitution, and also 21 bills that were passed by the National Assembly even when Senate wanted to debate them.
“Muturi is further ignoring 23 bills from Senate, which were forwarded to the National Assembly. Those who are trying to test the mettle of the Senate and the politics of Kenya are misguided,” said Kindiki.
Muturi, who is in Tel Aviv, Israel, said he should not be blamed for laws that have been passed without the Senate’s input.
“Someone might be advancing some agenda on this matter. I have responded adequately to any information from the Senate and if I didn’t agree, I stated my reasons,” Mr Muturi told The Standard by phone.
Nominated MP Amina Abdalla said Senate would not bully the National Assembly into submission just because of a single non-controversial clause on sharing of revenues between the two levels of government.
Nyenze, Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) and Olago Aluoch (Kisumu West) said Senate was simply spoiling for a fight with the National Assembly.
Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay Town) was a lone voice when he said Muturi should should send the bill to the Senate for approval.