Mzalendo's Weekly Newsletter

Issue no. 23, 9 - 15 March 2015

News of the Week:
  • The Agriculture committee wants government to cancel trading licenses for Kenafric Industries, Czarnikov E.A Ltd and Rising Star Commodities Ltd as culprits in the illegal sugar trade. It accuses them of repackaging illegal sugar imports into locally branded bags for sale in the Kenyan market. In its recommendations the committee said a substantial amount of illegal sugar was repackaged into locally branded bags to conceal identity and evade the surveillance network.

  • Attorney-General Githu Muigai has criticized MPs for changing budget proposals to allocate themselves billions of shillings. In an advisory to National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Henry Rotich, Prof Muigai cautioned the lawmakers against overstepping their mandate by making radical adjustments to the budget estimates, thereby distorting the government’s development policies and priorities. Recently, Parliament’s budget committee recommended that Sh2.1 billion be shared out among the 47 woman representatives and Sh1 billion among senators to oversee how county governments are run. A further attempt to allocate Sh3 billion for projects in selected constituencies was dropped due to pressure from some MPs. But the committee ended up channeling the bulk of the Sh3 billion towards the Parliamentary Service Commission (Sh1 billion) and the Constituency Development Fund (Sh1.38 billion).

  • National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has issued a two-month ultimatum to the Senate regarding approval of four Bills that have a constitutional deadline of May 27. The deadline for the approval of the Bills was extended by the National Assembly for nine months – from August 27, 2014, to May 27, 2015, and a second extension was not on the cards. He told the Senate Speaker that if the Senators fail to approve the Bills as per the set deadline, this will open a window for the Senators and even their lawmaking colleagues in the National Assembly, to be sent home. Article 261(5) of the Constitution gives any Kenyan the legal window to go to court seeking the dissolution of Parliament if they fail to pass the Bills as per the deadlines. That article in the law allows the extension of Bill approval to be done only once, and if the matter ends up at the High Court, then the courts can set a fresh deadline, which if not met, will see Chief Justice Willy Mutunga dissolve the House.
  • Senators are set to be given Sh1 billion to monitor how the national and county governments are implementing devolution. The lawmakers will receive the money in the next financial year, beginning in June. The senators have been pushing for an allocation for some time. The National Assembly’s Budget and Appropriation Committee included the amount in the Budget Statement. The senators, who are mandated by the Constitution to protect the interests of counties and their governments, become the third set of legislators to control an allocation after MPs and women representatives.
  • A group of senators have accused National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi of undermining the Senate and being a setback to devolution. They threatened to move a Motion in the House to discuss Mr. Muturi, saying he had consistently demonstrated that he was not comfortable working with the Senate. Mr Mong'are Okong'o claimed that Mr Muturi was ‘sanitising’ his reasons for ignoring a constitutional provision that requires him to consult his Senate counterpart Ekwee Ethuro on whether any Bill affects counties. The senators said it was improper for a Speaker of either House to assume that lawmakers are expected to tell whether a Bill affects counties or not based on what is said on the floor of Parliament or what is written in the proposed law.
  • The Senate is investigating a petition by three Kisumu members of county assembly (MCAs) who have alleged corruption scandals in the county government. The Finance and Devolved Governments committees are jointly probing the petition by Joseph Osano (Chemelil), Aggrey Ogosi (East Seme) and Elijah Omondi (Central Nyakach), who have cited 16 key concerns they want the Senate to address. While appearing before the committees, the trio argued the ongoing leadership wrangles pitting Governor Jack Ranguma, his deputy Ruth Odinga and MCAs may paralyse operations if not urgently addressed. The petition sponsored by Senator Anyan'g Nyong'o wants the governor held accountable for breach of procurement laws, the Public Finance and Management Act and abuse of office. The petitioners said the vetting process of chief officers was flawed, leading to the hiring of 14, despite only advertising for 10 positions.
  • Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria now says he is not the author of a controversial Bible verse that is the subject of a hate speech case against him. Kuria says he did not author the verse, Genesis 17:14, both on his Facebook page as claimed by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) or in the Bible itself. The verse has prompted the Director of Public Prosecution Keriako Tobiko to apply for cancellation of Kuria's Sh2 million cash bail in the criminal case. It reads: "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant." Kuria was charged in June last year after allegedly posting on social media what were considered provocative comments after the Gikomba Market terror attacks. He was charged with incitement, hate speech and causing ethnic contempt for Facebook messages posted on May 16. The complaint had been made to the NCIC by the Law Society of Kenya (LSK). He denied the three counts and was released on a Sh2 million cash bail and an alternative of a Sh5 million bond. Thereafter, negotiations between the MP and the complainants were held to have the case withdrawn on condition that he issued a public apology in the media. The apology was carried in a section of the media on January 15, this year. On January 11, the MP had posted the Bible verse on his Facebook page prompting public outcry.
EditorialCorruption allegations against Parliamentary Committees a Disgrace

Over the past one month, news on parliamentary committees and budgetary allocations have painted the institution charged with legislation, representation and oversight as corrupt and self-centered. Serious corruption allegations have been leveled against the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) members including its chairman. These allegations have been about its members soliciting and taking bribes from senior public servants to influence the outcome of a report under investigations. That parliamentarians can be very selfish to the point of competing amongst each other to take bribes and implicate each other in order to influence reports is not only unfortunate but also shameful. A parliamentary committees audit is recommended. Read more

Quote of the Week

Sentiments by Hon. Noah Wekesa during debate in Parliament on the earnings from Mau forest carbon credit scheme on 14th December, 2011

“I was just explaining that the issue of carbon credit is very new and some of our people are being short-changed. We have seen how it started. The companies themselves keep most of the money and our people are left with peanuts. What we are trying to do is to have a process where we are dealing with somebody who is credible and who will pay the maximum that we expect. That is because we know that the polluters of this world have invested a lot of money in carbon credit and we would like to have our right share and not short-change our farmers.” Read Hansard

Lest we Forget!

Sentiments by the late Hon. Otieno Kajwang' on the issue of issuance of national identity cards on 14th December, 2011.

“No, if the registrars were to ask for money. I am sure they would ask for it before they produce the identity cards. These ones have already been produced. We are enthusiastic that we give them out. It does not add value when they keep them in their offices. I wish I could speak from every vernacular radio station and tell them that they should go out and check for their identity cards, because there are many. I have gone to Kwale; I recently to Nakuru, I have gone to Bondo, I have gone to Mr. Muturi’s Constituency. In fact, I have been to the whole of Central Province. Next time, I am going to Lari and then I will visit Trans Nzoia. I will continue this exercise.” Read Hansard

Bills before the National Assembly

Second Reading

THE COUNTY GOVERNMENTS (AMENDMENT) BILL (SENATE BILL NO. 1 OF 2014) is sponsored by the Chairperson, Departmental Committee on Finance, Planning and Trade Hon. Benjamin Lang'at

THE COUNTY GOVERNMENTS (AMENDMENT) (No.2) BILL (SENATE BILL NO. 2 OF 2014) is sponsored by the Chairperson, Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs Hon. Samuel Chepkonga

THE NATIONAL HONOURS (AMENDMENT) BILL (SENATE BILL NO. 16 OF 2014) is sponsored by Majority Leader Hon. Aden Duale

THE POLITICAL PARTIES (AMENDMENT) BILL (SENATE BILL NO.3 OF 2014) is sponsored by the Chairperson, Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs 
Hon. Samuel Chepkonga

THE STATUTE LAW (MISCELLANEOUS AMENDMENTS) BILL (SENATE BILL NO. 4 OF 2014 is sponsored by the Chairperson, Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs Hon. Samuel Chepkonga


The Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill (National Assembly Bill No. 28 of 2013) is sponsored by the Chairperson, Departmental Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs 
Hon. Samuel Chepkonga

Newsmaker this week:

Tinderet MP. Mr. Julius Melly is of the view that leaders mentioned in corruption allegations should take individual responsibility and clear their names.  He said the image of the National Assembly should be protected and that there should be transparency and those named in graft allegations should take own responsibility. The legislator also pointed out that not everyone in the National Assembly is corrupt and that a few people should not taint the image of the institution. Profile

MPs’ ability to play watchdog role undermined by corruption allegations

The ability of MPs to conduct their oversight role over government has been drastically diminished following recent claims of extortion and bribery in House committees. The Public Accounts Committee is not the first. Over the last one year, a number of other committees have been accused of being on the take. The claims affect the credibility of investigations by the Agriculture Committee, Public Investment Committee and others into governance issues. The Agriculture Committee is also on spot over its investigation into the sugar sector where it is alleged that money changed hands.

In the past, persons and institutions under investigation have claimed that MPs demanded bribes with threats of bad reports if they did not play along. Some committees allegedly delay tabling reports in the National Assembly and use their findings to blackmail those under investigation. Vested interests have been cited as the main reason why some committees clash over particular investigations, resulting in duplication of inquiries.

This happened when the Public Investments and Transport committees insisted and went ahead to conduct parallel investigations into the standard gauge railway. Both teams gave the project a clean bill of health, with the PIC only adding that the project should proceed on condition the government hired an independent consultant to review the design and oversee construction. Some reports of committee investigations have been criticized for being influenced by political and financial interests.

Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi is quoted saying Parliament, charged with oversight of other institutions, cannot demand accountability from other institutions “yet we are rotting from inside”.

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Mzalendo in the news

Mzalendo was featured in the February 2015 issue of the New African Magazine. Read about how it does its work with other parliamentary watch organizations across the continent. Here

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