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Pass these Bills or risk being sent home, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi warns Senators

National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has issued a two-month ultimatum to the Senate regarding approval of four Bills that have a constitutional deadline of May 27.

In a hard-hitting letter to his counterpart in the Senate, Speaker Ekwe Ethuro, copied to the majority leaders of both Houses and Attorney General Githu Muigai, Muturi says the deadline for the approval of the Bills was extended by the National Assembly for nine months – from August 27, 2014, to May 27, 2015, and a second extension was not on the cards.

He told the Senate Speaker that if the Senators fail to approve the Bills as per the set deadline, this will open a window for the Senators and even their lawmaking colleagues in the National Assembly, to be sent home.

“It should be remembered that failure to enact the said legislation by May 27, 2015, will result in consequences provided for in Article 261(5) of the Constitution,” Muturi wrote in the letter sent to Ethuro on Friday.

That article in the Constitution gives any Kenyan the legal window to go to court seeking the dissolution of Parliament.

The law allows the extension of Bill approval to be done only once, and if the matter ends up at the High Court, then the courts can set a fresh deadline, which if not met, will see Chief Justice Willy Mutunga dissolve the House.

Breached law

Though it looks like there are 75 days are left to the deadline, Muturi’s caution that the deadline is unlikely to shift means Senate will have 34 parliamentary days to deal with the Bills that have been stuck in the National Assembly for the past seven months. The Senate, like the National Assembly, sits on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but the sittings can be extended.

The Bills in question are those to do with auditing the use of public funds, discipline in the civil service, procurement processes and the management of the environment in the two levels of government. They are the Public Audit Bill, the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Bill, the Public Service (Values and Principles) Bill, and the Environment Management and Coordination (Amendment) Bill.

The National Assembly Speaker questioned Ethuro’s finding that he, Muturi, had breached the law in failing to involve him (Ethuro) in the initial discussions on whether the Bills concerned the counties as prescribed in Article 110(3).

Senators and the Senate Speaker believe the Supreme Court and High Court agreed that before any Bill is allowed into any House, both Speakers must decide whether it deals with the counties or not.

“This is a question of fact. The provisions of Article 110(3) of the Constitution were not observed,” Ethuro told senators regarding the Public Audit Bill in a communication issued on Wednesday, which prompted the current back-and-forth.

However, Muturi dismissed Ethuro’s view as an “unnecessary misunderstanding and misconception”. He attached an extract of minutes from the House Business Committee showing that the committee was keen to give priority to the Bills with a constitutional deadline because they wanted to give the Senate ample time to address them.

“It was clear from the beginning from both the provisions of the Bill and the pronouncements by the House leadership that the Public Audit Bill, 2014, as published would be transmitted to the Senate upon conclusion by the National Assembly. It is my view that there was no question arising for determination... Based on the foregoing, such determination would have been superfluous,” said Muturi.

He told Ethuro that the Majority Leader of the National Assembly, Aden Duale, and the House Business Committee had not refused to send the Bill to the Senate.

But Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetang’ula urged Ethuro to tell Muturi that the senators wanted the Public Audit Bill as soon as possible: “It is good that you have come out clean and honest that you were not consulted on the Bill in the National Assembly. We urge you to write a letter demanding that when that Bill is finalised by the National Assembly, it must be forwarded to us. It squarely concerns counties.”

The tragedy of the exchange between the two Speakers — whose offices are on the same floor and hardly 20 yards apart — is that two of the Bills, the Public Audit Bill and the Public Procurement and Asset Disposal Bill, are stuck in the National Assembly, both awaiting the Third Reading.

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