Housing Bill, NADCO report top agenda as Parliament resumes from recess next week

National Assembly speaker Moses Wetangula arrives during the Parliament plenary sitting after the long holiday break on February 14, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

An overflowing in-tray awaits MPs as the House resumes sittings next week following a long recess.

The August House is set to debate, reject or approve various pieces of legislation before it and whose outcomes will have far-reaching ramifications for Kenyans and President William Ruto's administration.

Key among the top priorities is the report by the National Dialogue Committee (NADCO) which made several proposals aimed at changing the structure of government and creating new political positions.

The report was unveiled last year following lengthy deliberations of a bipartisan team led by National Assembly majority leader Kimani Ichungwa, on behalf of the Kenya Kwanza faction, and Wiper party leader Kalonzo Musyoka, on behalf of the Azimio coalition.

The report has called for the creation of the office of Leader of the Opposition, which will be occupied by the leader of the party that garnered the second highest number of votes in the presidential election with two deputies and the entrenchment of Prime Cabinet Secretary's office into the Constitution.

It also proposed that the Salaries and Remuneration Commission should reduce the bloated wage bill by 30 per cent.

Further, the Ministry of Energy will be required to reduce road maintenance levy and anti-adulteration levy by Sh5 and Sh3 respectively if the committee's report is endorsed by Parliament.

The two sides also reached a consensus to entrench the Senate Oversight Fund, Ward Development Fund and National Government Constituency Development Fund (NGCDF) in the Constitution.

On electoral justice, the report notes that the Azimio and Kenya Kwanza factions had agreed on the necessity of an audit of the 2022 electoral process.

It further proposed the establishment of an expanded selection panel from seven to nine members to recruit the chairman and commissioners of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

It has also called for the increase of the time the Supreme Court should hear a presidential petition from 14 to 21 days and the creation of an office to oversight party fidelity to be entrenched in the Constitution. The role currently played by the Office of Registrar of Political Parties.

MPs will also be considering the Affordable Housing Bill 2023 currently undergoing public participation once they resume on February 13.

The Bill which proposes the introduction of a 1.5 per cent housing levy to facilitate the construction of affordable houses, has already set the stage for a clash between MPs from across the political divide.

At the onset of the public participation, most Azimio MPs gave the process a wide berth as they rejected the levy they argued would only further burden Kenyans.

National Assembly Minority leader Opiyo Wandayi however denied the party had given instructions to its MPs to boycott the countrywide sessions conducted by the committees of Housing and Finance.

“The members are free to exercise their conscience. There has not been any communication from Azimio that the members should not participate in the process. If there was, everyone would know,” said Wandayi.

The court has since declared the Housing levy illegal, dealing a blow to President Ruto who said he is relying on the project to create employment and provide decent housing.

The government has however appealed the ruling, hoping the Appellate Court will reverse the High Court’s ruling.

“For the avoidance of doubt, I want to tell them that we were in the reprocess of creating a law to guide the process and they should have given us time. We will also appeal the case so that we continue with the programme and create jobs for millions of Kenyan youth…” said Ruto last month.

Kenya Kwanza MPs are now racing against time to regularise the levy by anchoring it in the Bill. They will however have an uphill task convincing their Azimio counterparts to back the Bill given the criticism it has attracted.

The Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) has identified several issues it says if not addressed threaten to grind the housing project to a halt.