In escalation of the fight for the control of parliamentary committees, Majority Leader Aden Duale withdrew a list of 28 Jubilee MPs he presented on Thursday to Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi and threatened to go ahead and constitute parliamentary committees without the participation of the Opposition. Photo/FILE Nation Media Group
By JOHN NGIRACHU firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted Monday, May 6 2013 at 20:36
Posted Monday, May 6 2013 at 20:36
In escalation of the fight for the control of parliamentary committees, Majority Leader Aden Duale withdrew a list of 28 Jubilee MPs he presented on Thursday to Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi.
Fourteen were to sit in the Public Accounts Committee and the other half on the Public Investments Committee. Both teams have 29 members.
The opposition has demanded majority membership in both watchdog committees as well as the chairmanship.
In making the demand, Cord argued that this is the parliamentary tradition. But, Jubilee insists the system has changed from the Westminster-type arrangement to a presidential one.
Running out of time
Curiously, in the dying days of the last Parliament, MPs changed the Standing Orders, stripping the Opposition of dominance in those committees.
National Speaker Justin Muturi has ordered the coalition heads in the House to agree on how the slots will be shared. He warned MPs they risk running out of time to scrutinise the Budget.
Neither PAC nor PIC will scrutinise the Budget, which is the task of the 12 departmental committees.
It has, however, been suggested that all the committees be formed and approved at once so the balance between the two coalitions can be achieved.
The National Assembly has already lost four of the 21 days it has been allowed to peruse the estimates submitted by the Executive before they are handed over to the Budget Committee for public input and on the floor of the House for approval.
PAC and PIC are considered the watchdog committees because they scrutinise government spending. PAC does this by interrogating reports from the Auditor-General and often summons ministers for questioning over spending in past financial years.
PIC is charged with examining the working of public investments, which basically gives it the authority to investigate the affairs of any institution or enterprise where taxpayers’ money is spent.
Yesterday, there appeared to have been no progress on the talks ordered by the Speaker as Mr Duale informed the Press shortly after midday of the hardening of positions and his dramatic withdrawal of the names earlier in the day.
“I can confirm today that I have withdrawn the list I presented on Thursday to the Clerk,” he declared, waving a copy of the Standing Orders. “I have withdrawn the three (slots) we had given to Cord and replaced them. The only goodwill I can give them based on procedures and practices is the chair.”
Mr Duale and his coalition appear determined to extend their dominance of the House to committees and have countered Cord’s demands by asserting that the only avenue open is to change the rules of the House through the Procedure and House Rules Committee.
The Standing Orders were passed on the night of January 9 with a small number of MPs in the House, and was among the last acts of the 10th Parliament.
Mr Jakoyo Midiwo, the Minority Deputy Leader, however, said they would not relent in their demand to be given the necessary tools to play their role as the Opposition and declared that Mr Duale “is drunk on power.”
“The mandate to oversee government was given to Cord by the people of Kenya. We are the minority, we are happy to play that role and we shall not be intimidated by Duale,” the Gem MP said.
Cord would hold a Parliamentary Group meeting where MPs will be briefed on the situation and a position on the way forward taken, he said.
Jubilee had said last week that going by their strength in the House, they ought to have 17 MPs on the 27-member committees but had “donated” three slots to Cord. Mr Midiwo described the suggestion as “a pipe dream”.
Parliamentary whips are the only ones who can negotiate the formation of the committees, said Mr Midiwo, meaning neither coalition can live without the other.
Mr Duale, however, maintains that if Cord does not submit its names by tomorrow, Jubilee would go ahead and form the committees, elect chairmen and then start holding meetings.
If this happens, the rules could be in their favour.
Asked about the rules on quorum, the clerk, said: “It doesn’t say whether quorum is from one party or the other. It is quorum of a committee and we’d rather deal with that matter when it arises.”
Mr Bundi was confident yesterday the MPs would find a way out of the quandary so that the lists are ready for approval by the House.
“Everybody understands the need for the committees to be in place so we can begin the business,” he said.