The Senate has resolved to suspend some activities to protest the reduction of its budgetary allocation for committees from Sh485 million for the financial year 2022/2023 to Sh322 million in the current financial year.
Senate Deputy Speaker Kathuri Murungi who chairs the Senate Liaison Committee that brings together the chairpersons of the 17 committees led members in demanding for the reinstatement of the slashed funds or they down their tools during a meeting in Nairobi yesterday.
Committee Chairpersons drawn from Kenya Kwanza Alliance and Azimio la Umoja One Kenya who spoke to The Standard claimed that the decision to reduce their budgetary allocation was aimed at crippling the Senate whose role is to protect devolution and they will resist it by all means.
“The Senate Liaison Committee in a meeting held yesterday considered the committees budgets for the Financial Year 2023/2024 as contained in the committee paper and resolved to reject the budget allocated which has been reduced from Sh485 million to Sh322 million,” said Murungi.
Senate Deputy Minority Whip Edwin Sifuna opposed the decision by the Senate Liaison Committee to suspend committee sittings saying that it was just a House team like the rest and he does not see how that decision will put pressure on the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC).
The Nairobi Senator said that the minority side which is in charge of the Senate County Public Accounts Committee and the Senate County Public Investment and Special Funds Committee see the decision to slash the budget as an opportunity to cripple oversight of counties by the Kenya Kwanza Administration.
“Kenya Kwanza senators have repeatedly undermined the standing of the Senate including taking instructions from outside the House on critical matters, they are responsible for weakening the Senate and cannot act surprised when funds for Senate committees are slashed,” said Sifuna.
Senate County Public Accounts Committee Chairman Moses Kajwang explained that the decision to down tools is meant to pile pressure on the PSC to allocate reasonable budget for Senate committees which play a critical role in conducting House business outside the main chamber.
The Homa Bay Senator noted that the current allocation will cripple committee activities and they will be limited to Nairobi yet the Senate is supposed to oversee the operations of counties.
Kajwang said that it will take two financial years for a member to earn a foreign trip and the situation is so grave that last Monday they could not get lunch for members yet they held three committee meetings which is clear case of sabotage to the work of the Senate.
“I am only wishing we could use the same balls to stand up for Senate as an institution when it faces more serious threats from the Executive and the National Assembly which have worked towards curtailing the operation of the upper house in the last few years,” he said.
The Homa Bay senator noted that the committee was to meet Uasin Gishu Governor Jonathan Bii today to answer audit queries but they resolved to cancel any engagements until the matters at hand are deliberated upon and the Senate gets its rightful share of budgetary allocation.
Senate County Public Investments and Special Funds Committee Chairman Godfrey Osotsi demanded an explanation on budgetary cuts saying that their travel budget has been reduced from Sh20 million to Sh12 million for foreign and domestic travel.
Osotsi said that they have now been given Sh8 million for foreign travel and Sh4 million for local travel and the new development was aimed at preventing them from performing their tasks which is to ensure that devolution works.
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“The Senate committees budget cuts have only one reason which is to make the House lame duck and also make devolution fail, we are not going to allow this to happen under our watch, we are going to fight this to the bitter end,” he said.
Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Chairman Hillary Sigei explained that previously before the budget cuts, each committee used to receive approximately Sh40 million when the dollar then was around Sh100 and that with this they could comfortably manage their domestic and foreign activities.
"I am a member of the Liaison committee and as the chair of JLAHRC it is the option we took because the allocations to the committees is utterly insufficient to run the committee affairs, in order to correct this, we have thus opted to suspend any business," said Sigei.
Senate Delegated Legislation Committee Chairman Mwenda Gataya supported the suspension of activities terming the budgetary cut as a sure way of killing the Senate saying without strengthening committees the overall responsibility of the oversight is dead.
Senate National Cohesion Committee Chairman Mohammed Chute said the slashing of the budget was regrettable and he supported the court case by Busia Senator Okiya Omtatah which seeks to have the involvement of the Senate and National Assembly before the Finance Bill is passed.