Mzalendo's Weekly Newsletter

Issue no. 36, 8 - 14 June, 2015

News of the Week:
  • MPs are a step closer to receiving free iPads after the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) began the search to supply the customized tablet to the lawmakers. The PSC is seeking firms to supply 545 brand new tablets which sell for at least Sh60, 000 each. This means taxpayers will pay at least Sh32,700,000 for the transaction. However, the total bill for the new mobile tablets is likely to be much higher, especially after monthly costs of downloading data are included. The gadgets will be loaded with Standing Orders, Bills, Motions and committee reports. MPs claim that the use the iPads will enable them to keep up to date with their parliamentary business and cut costs as well.

  • Lawmakers have welcomed the increased allocation towards fighting insecurity and corruption, but challenged the Jubilee administration to perform better on the issues. Increasing the allocations to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission and the Director of Public Prosecutions was right, but the government should not interfere with their work, the legislators said after the Budget reading. They said insecurity had increased despite more money being given to fight it over the past two years. In this year’s Budget, the security sector has been given Sh223 billion. The anti-corruption agency has been allocated Sh2.6 billion and the DPP Sh2.2 billion.

  • The National Assembly rejected the nomination of Dr Monica Juma to serve as secretary to the Cabinet after a chaotic session.  The lawmakers adopted the report of the Committee on Administration and National Security that vetted the former Defence principal secretary. Until her nomination, Dr Juma was the Interior principal secretary. In the report, the committee had recommended her rejection, accusing her of "arrogance and insensitivity", and that she was unable to spell out her achievements at the Defence and Interior ministries. “The nominee lacked demonstrable passion to serve the public and their elected leaders,” the committee said in its report. They argued that since MPs are representatives of the people, her saying that MPs were unwelcome in her office signalled a rejection of Kenyans in total.
  • Senators want the national government to devolve primary and secondary learning to enable county governments to play a greater role in the running and maintenance of schools. The lawmakers have renewed their call to devolve the management of the schools’ infrastructure after their initial efforts failed to bear fruits last year. The push began last year but fizzled out after the ministry of Education refused to barge. However, the lawmakers now want the counties to be in charge of the construction and management of schools but leave the distribution of state-employed teachers to the national government. According to the members of the Senate Committee on Devolved Government, counties ought to fully participate in the running of schools so as to improve transition from one level to another. Presently, counties are only in charge of Early Childhood Education, while the ministry of Education manages the rest of the sector.

  • Lamu West Member of Parliament Julius Ndegwa Kariuki has been charged with abuse of office. Mr Kariuki was also charged alongside four other members of a Constituency Development Fund (CDF) committee with conspiracy to commit an economic crime and irregular re-allocation of allocated funds within the CDF. The MP and Michael Thegeru, Yussuf Hassan, Sophia Wanjiru and Zakayo Gitonga were also charged with misappropriating the CDF allocations. The accused, who appeared before Mombasa Chief Magistrate Susan Shitubi, denied the charges and were released on a Sh3 million bond or an alternative of Sh1 million cash bail. They allegedly, jointly through corrupt and fraudulent practices, caused an irregular transfer of Sh1.6 million to the Lamu CDF office account, which was allocated for the construction of the Witu Livestock Cattle Dip. Mr. Kariuki, Mr Thegeru, Mr Hassan, Ms Wanjiru and Mr Gitonga, also being members of the Witu Livestock Cooperative Cattle Dip Project's management committee, jointly reallocated the money meant for the dip project without any approval from the CDF board. The court also heard that the accused jointly misappropriated the money allocated for the project. Mr. Kariuki allegedly used his office to improperly confer Sh1 million to himself meant for the administration of the Lamu West CDF office. The offences are alleged to have been committed on diverse dates between July 7 and October 30, 2013 in Lamu County.
  • A Kisumu court was told that Kitutu Chache South MP Richard Onyonka wrote a letter saying that he would collect tax on behalf of the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA). The anti-corruption court further heard that the withholding tax certificate, which usually originates from the KRA, was presented and signed by the MP himself. The document was then used to authorize the release of sugar from Chemelil Company between April and June 2008. According to a witness, the MP’s action was irregular since the company is the withholding agent in the certificate and not an individual sugar buyer. This was revealed by the company’s sales supervisor, Margaret Ng’etich, before Kisumu Principal Magistrate Thomas Obutu in a Sh21 million tax evasion case against the MP and George Siro, an official of his then Kitutu Chache CDF committee. Mrs Ng’etich said she had raised questions about the document with her then marketing manager George Matwere, who she said ruled that it was proper. In the case, the legislator is accused on the basis of his being the then CDF patron while Mr Siro is being tried on suspicion that he is the one who kept the Sh21 million that was to be remitted to the KRA.
Editorial:  Time ripe to legislate on Vetting

The manner in which MPs handled the nomination of Amb. Dr. Monica Juma as the Secretary to the Cabinet calls for a vetting law. This is not the only case in point but since the Uhuru government was sworn in, the vetting exercises have been wanting. Part 9 (1) of the Public Officers Ethics Act expects a public officer to carry out their duties in a way that maintains public confidence in the integrity of his office; treat the public and his fellow public officers with courtesy and respect; seek to improve the standards of performance and level of professionalism in his organization; and discharge any professional responsibilities in a professional manner among other requirements. To discredit her, MPs cited a letter she had written to the Clerk and Speaker of Parliament requesting MPs to stop pushing for favors and continually visiting her office. More importantly, this process makes a case for vetting law. Many public officers vetted since March 2013 have had questionable pasts and the true considerations of legislators in approving or rejecting a candidate remain very subjective. Read more

Quote of the Week

Sentiments by Hon. Wangari Maathai during discussions on a Bill to amend the Education Act on 9th May, 2007

“…Education is about the most important investment we can make in our country. Taking care of our young people and giving them knowledge are extremely important parts of the responsibility that we ought to embrace both as parents and as Government. Any country that we often quote in this House as we discuss issues, comparing ourselves with them and wondering why they went forward when we remained stagnant or went backwards; often, the difference is that their governments invested in education. Very good examples are India and South Korea. Both countries are very well-known to us. Especially, India provides many personnel that eventually come to work in our country. We also have a country like South Korea, which has been quoted many times in this House. We often say that in the 1970s, Kenya and South Korea were developing at about the same rate, but at a certain time, Korea took off and is now one of the Asian economic tigers. If we ever aspire to be a tiger and develop to the level that many of us hope for, we must invest in education... So, it is possible to stretch ourselves to manage our resources better and do it without sacrificing too much.” Read Hansard

Lest we Forget!

Question by Hon. Kiema Kilonzo seeking clarification on alleged sale of contaminated maize to Kenyans on May 12, 2009

“I rise to seek a Ministerial Statement from the Prime Minister in view of the various public and contradictory statements issued by various Government agencies concerning the contaminated maize, more so, yesterday, a statement from the Minister for Public Health and Sanitation that, that poisonous maize could have found its way into the shops. More so, there are also leaders who have gone to the media, telling the public to be careful and to look out for that maize when they go to the shops. In view of those facts, I would want the Prime Minister to clarify the following: (a) tell the House who gave instructions for the maize to be off-loaded, confirm whether, after it was off-loaded, it was destroyed and, if it was destroyed, where the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation was during that exercise since the Minister does not seem to be aware of such destruction; and, (b) under whose authority the maize was off-loaded from the ship, since it appears that various Government agencies appear to be unaware of what happened. Mr. Speaker, Sir, in view of the fact that Kenyans all over the country are now in panic, we want that Ministerial Statement to be issued as soon as possible, so that Kenyans can know whether maize in our shops now is safe or unsafe for human consumption. This matter touches lives of Kenyans.” Read Hansard

Newsmaker this week:

Parliament passed in the first reading the Transfer of Prisoners Bill 2014. This will create provision for prison transfer from foreign countries. It paves way for Kenyans languishing in foreign prisons may be brought back home to serve their sentences. The Transfer of Prisoners Bill 2014 proposes laws that will make it possible for Kenyan prisoners in foreign jails to be transferred to local prisons. Similarly, the Bill also proposes that foreigners serving prison sentences in Kenya can be transferred to their countries to complete their sentences. But for this to happen, Kenya will have to sign a Transfer of Prisoners Agreement with the country with which it seeks to exchange prisoners. Second reading which started June 10th continues this week until it is finalized. The debate is being steered by the Majority leader Hon. Aden Duale. Profile

Uhuru expands retirement perks for leaders

President Uhuru Kenyatta has cut the retirement perks for Opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, and expanded the list of politicians to benefit from a luxurious retirement package funded by the taxpayer. The calculation of the lumpsum payment for retired Prime Minister and Vice President will now be based on a year’s pay for the term served as opposed to 18 months. But he let the retirees enjoy a monthly pay of 80 per cent of what they used to earn every month for the rest of their lives. But for Raila and Kalonzo to enjoy the perks, they still have to quit politics because the President is of the opinion that active politicians should not draw State pension. In a memo to the National Assembly, the Head of State said the list of beneficiaries should be expanded to include everyone who served as Vice President or Speaker beginning January 1, 1993, and will not be limited to grand coalition government (2008-2013) as it had been proposed. The memo is a detailed explanation of why the President refused to assent to The Retirement Benefits (Deputy President and Designated State Officers) Bill, 2015, that defines terms for pension and other benefits for the Deputy President, the Speakers, former Prime Minister Odinga and ex-VP Musyoka. He said he dated the benefits back to 1993 because these politicians had served in Government at a time when the country was just beginning the journey into multiparty democracy whose benefits, “we are still reaping as a nation”.

Public Participation

The Constituency Development Fund  (CDF) is inviting input from the public to inform amendments to the CDF Act 2013 that was declared unconstitutional by the High Court and given one year to conform with the Constitution, specifically devolved system of government. Written memoranda could be submitted to the CDF offices Nairobi Harambee Cooperative Plaza 10th floor, or sent by mail by 30th June 2015 to and addressed to the Chief Executive Officer. The mailing address is 46682 - 00100, Nairobi. 

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