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Kenyan MPs seek control of oil and mineral deals in new bill

POLITICS
By Alphonce Shiundu | January 14th 2016
Environment and Natural Resources Chairperson Amina Abdalla

NAIROBI: The fate of multi-billion-shilling deals to exploit the country's natural resources will be decided in Parliament, according to a new bill scheduled for final approval.

The two Houses of Parliament will be required to approve all mineral contracts "with a threshold of Sh50 billion" and also authorise the extraction of crude oil and natural gas in the country.

The Natural Resources (Classes of Transactions Subject to Ratification) Bill 2015 states that all investors who get contracts to exploit resources have to submit their contracts to the Environment Cabinet Secretary, who will then forward them to Parliament for ratification.

The long-term concessions on Government forests; the exploration and exploitation of resources in game parks and of water resources both inland and on territorial waters in the Indian Ocean; export and re-export of endangered species, and even grants for access to genetic materials and genetically modified organisms' research, will all need the MPs' nod.

The idea is to make sure MPs check if the contracts are in line with Government policy and all concerns of the regulatory agencies involved are taken into account.

The MPs will also have to consider the input of the county government, where the natural resources are located. "(MPs shall consider) the adequacy of stakeholder consultation; the extent to which the agreement has struck a fair balance between the interests of the beneficiary and the benefits to the country; the benefits which the local community is likely to enjoy; and whether the applicable law has been complied with," reads the bill.

A timeline of 60 days is given for the lawmakers to make their decision.

The CS has the power to deny MPs the right to check some portions of the contracts because of "commercial confidentiality, national security or other public interest considerations".

If anyone has a problem with hidden portions of an agreement, they will have to take the matter to the High Court.

However, National Assembly's Committee on Environment and Natural Resources Chairperson Amina Abdalla (nominated) said the MPs have to rework the clause. "Let's make sure that business competitors do not get the contents of the agreement, but let's not have committees approving agreements blindly," said Ms Abdalla.

Lawmakers are set to resume their sittings in February.

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