Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Stalemate as Cord pulls MPs out of key House teams

Posted  Tuesday, May 7  2013 at  23:30

Cord on Tuesday withdrew its MPs from all parliamentary committees and staged a walkout from the House as the dispute over the composition of watchdog committees raged.
The coalition had announced its decision after a parliamentary group meeting at Nairobi’s Panafric Hotel, and followed this up with the walkout after Speaker Justin Muturi ruled that committees should start work immediately.
The action threatens to scuttle the vetting of Cabinet Secretaries which was to start on Wednesday and the scrutiny of the National Budget which is already running on a tight deadline.
Presiding over the first stormy session of the Parliament, Mr Muturi threw Nyando MP Fred Outa out of the House for misconduct and ordered the lawmaker to stay away for three days.
Mr Outa had reacted after Kikuyu MP Antony Kimani claimed that calls were coming from “an old man in London” last week instructing Cord lawmakers what to do.
The reference angered Mr Outa who interpreted it as a slight on Cord leader Raila Odinga who was in London last week.
The House descended into near chaos shortly after the statement by Mr Kimani.
“It is very clear as of now that the Minority is not only lacking leadership in this House but is getting directions as to how to transact business in this House from quarters outside,” the Kikuyu MP said. “Last week, we’re aware when they were to submit names, telephone calls were made from London to stop them from submitting their names. It is clear that not only telephone calls were made by one old man from London…when these people arrived…” he said before he was interrupted.
Deputy Minority Leader Jakoyo Midiwo waded into the argument with another contentious statement.
“You may want because you are used to impunity. Remember we are dealing with you after you have stolen our elections. What is the problem? You have stolen our elections and we are not supposed to be happy,” Mr Midiwo charged.
Led by Minority Leader Francis Nyenze, Cord claimed they had not been given a fair hearing in attempts to contribute to the debate over the formation of the committees.
Mr Nyenze later cancelled a press conference at the media centre as his colleagues asked him to consult some more.
Jubilee and Cord have been fighting over the composition of the Public Accounts and Public Investment committees which scrutinise public spending.
Under the old system, the two were chaired by the opposition but that requirement was removed from the Standing Orders. The question is whether under the new presidential system of government the opposition chairs and dominates the committees.
Cord argues that to play its role as the opposition party, it needs to have the majority as well as leadership of both teams. Jubilee counters that whereas it is willing to cede the leadership, the composition of the committees must mirror that of the House.
Mr Outa was among MPs who screamed “Shame!” and caused a ruckus in the House. He will not be allowed within the precincts of Parliament in the next three days, the Speaker ordered.
His ejection was one of the highlights of the debate marked by numerous points of order, accusations, the labelling of Cord MPs as “orphans” and other taunts across the floor.
Cord and Jubilee leaders had last Thursday been ordered by the Speaker to negotiate an end to the wrangling and come up with the membership of the committees.
But they had not by 1.30pm on Tuesday, and Majority Leader Aden Duale indicated this by informing the House that he had submitted Jubilee’s list of committee members to the Clerk.
Mr Midiwo described Mr Duale’s submission as “way misplaced”.
“If you are a leader, you must lead. You can’t talk to the other side through the media,” he charged.
Mr Midiwo said even after submitting the names, the committees would not work because they did not meet the minimum required for a committee to be considered to be in place.
Running out of time
The Speaker had anticipated this discord between the coalitions and prepared a ruling to enable the House to continue with its job, which has been in limbo because of the fighting between the coalitions.
The National Assembly was running out of time to finish discussing the Division of Revenue Bill, he said, and in the absence of the committees, MPs would have to discuss it on Wednesday.
The National Assembly has to finish with the Bill by Thursday, he said.
This means that when it is taken for the Second Reading on Wednesday morning, it will be the first time a Bill will be discussed without the input from a committee.

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