MPs are up in arms over a controversial proposal by the Senate that seeks to withdraw their vetting powers in the appointment of senior government officials.
In recommendations to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) that are likely to jolt MPs and fuel the supremacy battles between the two houses over legislative roles, senators want to vet all senior government officials, a function that has traditionally been under the National Assembly.
The Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chaired by Nyamira Senator Okong’o Omogeni also proposes that the Ombudsman be an ex-officio member of the Judicial Service Commission in a report set to be tabled this week.
Other proposals include retaining a single senator per county rather than two as proposed in the BBI report, and maintaining woman representative positions in the National Assembly, where they would also be eligible for appointment to the Cabinet.
The Senate committee claimed both houses had agreed on the proposed changes before the report is subjected to a referendum championed by President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga.
However, the National Assembly distanced itself from the proposals yesterday, saying MPs were not consulted. Majority Leader Amos Kimunya said the report “is purely a Senate matter, is not binding and does not represent our views”.
“As you will notice, this is purely a Senate matter, nothing to do with the National Assembly,” Mr Kimunya told the Nation. Minority Whip Junet Mohammed urged senators to forward their recommendations to the BBI task force.
“Parliament has minimum role in this BBI because the process is based on a popular initiative and is not a parliamentary process. So the committee can only make proposals which no one is bound to implement,” Mr Junet told the Nation.
Mr Mohammed said the National Assembly may initiate its own process if it prefers changes in the Constitution:”This is a popular initiative, not a parliamentary process. We did not play any role in it.”
Justice and Legal Affairs Committee chairman Muturi Kigano distanced his members from the report, saying they did not participate in it: “You don’t just give a report like that, it is a consultative process. I am not aware of any report out there.”
The dismissal of the senate report by the National Assembly widens the rift between the two houses. During his State of the Nation address last week, President Kenyatta called for a truce between the two houses to heal divisions in a bid to boost services.
“I challenge the leadership of our two houses of Parliament to strive, as much as possible, to resolve issues of concern by consensus building. As worldwide experience shows, there is always some level of jostling to be expected between the two chambers of a national legislature, as they each seek to better exercise their institutional mandates. Those issues should only escalate to external dispute resolution processes as a last resort, doing otherwise, hurriedly compromises the legislative authority of the House,” President Kenyatta said.
Senators have been embroiled in a long-standing dispute with MPs over their role in legislative issues. On the other hand, MPs claim senators are overstepping their mandate and duplicating the roles of the National Assembly.